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UNK– Criss Salinas of Schuyler, a senior at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, is one of only 24 undergraduate students in the nation selected to participate in the Congressional Hispanic Congress Institute (CHCI) in Washington, D.C., this summer.
During the eight-week leadership training program, which begins June 6 and ends in Aug.1, college students participate in a CHCI curriculum that focuses on professional development and the importance of civic engagement.
Students selected for this program receive round-trip transportation to Washington, D.C., summer housing with room and board, a $2,500 stipend for local expenses, placement in a congressional office and weekly leadership development sessions.
Requirements of this program include an undergraduate status, a grade point average of 3.0 or above on a 4.0 scale, strong analytical and writing skills, consistent active participation in public and/or community service activities, and U.S. citizenship or legal permanent residence. Salinas is a Dean’s List student at UNK and is the recipient of the Peter Kiewit Foundation Hispanic Educators Opportunity Scholarship and the Dream Scholar Award. In 2007, Salinas was named the Outstanding Latino Leader of Nebraska.
“The University of Nebraska at Kearney has given me the opportunity to grow as a better person, student and leader,” Salinas said. “I have learned to work with diverse groups of people with different ideas, beliefs and values.
“I had heard about the Congressional Hispanic Congress Institute my freshman year at UNK, and I’ve always had it stuck in my head,” he said. “It wasn’t until this year that I finally decided to apply…I wanted to do something new and different.” Participants will attend a week-long orientation where they are assigned to congressional offices to learn government functions. Their duties will include responding to constituent inquiries, drafting correspondence, monitoring hearings, conducting research and assisting with general office operations.
“It’s interesting for me to be there, because there are students from Puerto Rico, Colombia and Yale, and here I am from Nebraska,” Salinas said. Salinas will work with U.S. Senator Michael Bennet from Colorado and live in the George Washington University residence halls. He will also participate in a CHCI community service project to broaden his personal experience with civic engagement.
Salinas has been involved in numerous activities, both on and off campus, including utilizing his minor in dance to teach students with disabilities. He has mentored students at Bryant Elementary School through his membership with Sigma Lambda Beta. On campus, Salinas was voted UNK Homecoming King. In addition, he has served as the chair of the seventh annual Nebraska Cultural Unity Conference (NCUC), an event which he attended when he was in high school and which also helped him make the decision to attend UNK.
“Each NCUC welcomes about 400 students from across the state of Nebraska and Kansas,” Salinas said, “The purpose of the conference is to create an outreach link to the many students who might not otherwise consider the option of higher education. The best part of all is that I will leave UNK with more than just a degree; I will know what I love to do.”
Salinas is majoring in Spanish education with an endorsement English as a second language. He plans to graduate in May of 2010.