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Academy prepares Hispanic youth for leadership

A youth is wrapped in paper as part of a leadership training exercise (Module III). The exercise was part of a session sponsored by two United Methodist agencies as part of the Aug. 9-12 meeting of MARCHA - Methodists Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic Americans - in Newark, N.J. A UMNS photo by Humberto Casanova.

By Amanda M. Bachus*
Aug. 24, 2007 | NEWARK, N.J. (UMNS)

A United Methodist training program is reaching young people such as Erica Granados-De La Rosa and preparing them to lead in the church.

The Hispanic/Latino Youth Leadership Academy is the only United Methodist program specifically preparing Hispanic/Latino young people for leadership in The United Methodist Church.

Granados-De La Rosa, a 16-year-old high school graduate from the Rio Grande Annual (regional) Conference, is a 2006 graduate of the youth leadership academy.

"The academy is truly a program that molds lives and is a vital asset to the UMC," Granados-De La Rosa said.

"As a young Christian Latina, I felt empowered and more confident in where I stand as a youth leader in The United Methodist Church, in the community, (among) my people, and within this country. The academy offered me something I couldn't have found in any other area (of the denomination): a place and time dedicated to nurture and walk with United Methodist Latino youth as we begin our journey to empower future leaders."

A relationship with God


Erica Granados-De La Rosa is a 2006 Hispanic/Latino Youth Leadership Academy graduate. 
A UMNS photo by Belinda Ibarra.

The national, three-year Hispanic/Latino Youth Leadership Academy is committed to helping youth discover and embrace their relationship with God and encouraging them as they complete their education. The academy is at the United Methodist-related Perkins School of Theology in Dallas.

Building strong leadership is one of the four mission initiatives identified by United Methodist leaders as a priority for the future. Hispanic/Latino church leaders have said that an urgent need exists in The United Methodist Church and among the Hispanic/Latino church for young leadership.

"HYLA seemed to give Latino youth a sense of leadership but also a sense of cultural and spiritual identity," Granados-De La Rosa said.

Only 49 percent of the Hispanic population graduates from high school, and only 9 percent from university, according to data provided by the academy. The Mexican American Program of Perkins School of Theology, in partnership with the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry, developed the Hispanic/Latino Youth Leadership Academy for high school youth and college young adults to help them explore their call to ministry.

Youth involved in the academy gather on the campus of Southern Methodist University each summer to participate in Christian discipleship, vocational development, leadership training, college prep assistance, and a variety of other activities. The academy puts Hispanic/Latino high school and college students together with pastors, seminarians and other Hispanic/Latino leaders who serve as mentors.

One of the first faculty to support the academy was the Rev. Alejandro F. Botta, then professor of Hebrew Bible at Perkins School of Theology and originally from Argentina, according to the Rev. Cristian De La Rosa, youth academy coordinator. Botta was also Granados-De La Rosa's mentor throughout her three years in the Academy.  

Exploring vocations

During the Aug. 9-12 meeting of Methodists Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic Americans in Newark, academy youth participated in a leadership training sponsored by the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries and the United Methodist Board of Discipleship. They also participated in workshops on advocacy and immigration.
Although Granados-De La Rosa expects to earn a degree in sociology and a doctorate degree in education after beginning studies at Loyola University Chicago this fall, she will continue to support the academy as a youth mentor and facilitator.

She is serving on the academy's advisory board and is assisting the transition of the academy from an entity of the South Central Jurisdiction to a national organization.


In 2007, academy participants were from five U.S. jurisdictions and Puerto Rico, including a guest youth from Mexico. Forty youth were accepted out of 65 registered for the summer program, and 11 youth completed the three-year-curriculum and graduated from the academy Aug. 2.

All students are expected to be in ministry, and during each academy, they talk about their ministry settings and explore their vocations as disciples of Christ and their leadership in The United Methodist Church. 

"HYLA is one of those programs that I hope becomes embedded in the permanent structure of The United Methodist Church, " Granados-De La Rosa said, "because it is profoundly needed within our church and more so in our Hispanic community."

*Bachus is the director of Spanish language resources at United Methodist Communications.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.


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