University of New Mexico staff and faculty came together this past weekend to celebrate 29 future leaders who graduated from the New Mexico Leadership Institute (NMLI) program. The incoming UNM and NMSU freshmen participated in a weeklong event filled with lectures and classes intended to prepare them for meeting long-term goals as lifelong learners in academic and personal achievement.

Dan Burrell, current founder and CEO of Burrell Western Resources, is chairman of NMLI. “Our objective is to provide exceptional high school leaders from across New Mexico with the financial resources, global awareness and professional networks required to succeed in a competitive and knowledge-based economy," Burrell said.

Nearly 270 highly qualified high school juniors from across New Mexico applied for NMLI inaugural class, which includes a $25,000 scholarship towards the cost of their education at UNM or NMSU. That number was narrowed down to 60 who were interviewed by a panel before the final 29 were chosen.

“This is the time that we can develop young people into true leaders,” said Cheo Torres, vice president, Student Affairs. “We’re big believers in leadership training at a university level.” Cheo advises students to continue to pursue their education career because it will change them and prepare them for the future.

“Throughout the week I got a good grasp of what the University of New Mexico is requiring of me and how I can make it the best experience possible,” student Janna Mills said.

“The activities were helpful, and a good way for us to interact with each other. I think we all learned more about ourselves and what we want to do with our future. It was inspiring and motivating,” student Daniela Armendariz said.

But perhaps it was Cory Stevens who summed it up best. “We all have the same goal. Our dream is to change New Mexico,” he said.

“These students have big passions and are very dedicated to what they’re doing,” Burrell said. “What we’re trying to do is direct them and to channel that energy.”

To learn more about the fall program, interested high school juniors can apply through their school guidance counselors or download an application at New Mexico Leadership Institute.

For a look at the week in photos, visit New Mexico Leadership Week.