“Our purpose is furthering the educational development of youth by guiding them to see themselves as competent, aggressive, skilled and educated individuals who represent immense value to an emerging world of dual realities.” –Ernesto Nieto
Ernesto Nieto has quietly gone about his work and mission
for over 35 years founding the National Hispanic Institute (NHI), a 501(c)3,
tax exempt non-profit organization, in 1979. In 1983, Ernesto was joined by his
wife Gloria who retired a few years ago. During this time, the organization
began in 1981 with a single pilot project in Austin. Through their efforts and
the tireless support of hundreds of volunteers, NHI today operates 15 national
training sites that include over 3,000 students from 26 states and 7 nations.
Gloria de León is originally from McAllen in her querido Rio Grande Valley where she was
an honors student at the University of Texas Pan American. A Distinguished
Alumna of her alma mater, she also holds several other honors for her work that
include honorary doctoral degrees from Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth
and Austin College in Sherman, Texas.
Ernesto Nieto grew up under the tutelage of his parents
in his hometown of Houston where they were long time community workers dating
back to 1929. Ernesto is the first to say that much of his knowledge of working
in the Latino community came from observing and volunteering with his parents
as early as elementary school. His two books account for many of these lessons from
his Houston days and time with federal and state community action programs
throughout Texas and the Southwest.
Ernesto also holds two honorary doctoral degrees, one
from Texas Wesleyan University and the other from Austin College. He is also a Distinguished
Alumnus of his high school and alma mater, Southwestern University in
Georgetown, Texas. He has served as trustee of DePaul University in Chicago and
is currently a trustee at Southwestern University. He has been honored by the
National Association for College Admissions Counseling and in 2013 he was
presented with the George I. Sanchez Award for Civil Rights by the National
Education Association. All four of Ernesto’s children have played key leaders
roles in the development of NHI, especially when the organization began
expanding to other states and his grandchildren will become official NHIers in
a few summers.