Amidst a growing call for diverse representation in politics, Hispanic and Latin youth from across New York gathered in Albany to hone their leadership skills and engage in the art of democracy.

Just two years ago, Wilman Horta, a high school junior, wouldn't have imagined himself in the role of governor in a mock state Assembly.

"We're here just to make a future, a better life for us and for everyone, you know," Horta said.

After journeying through South America to reunite with his mother in the United States, Horta sought a better life, finding valuable lessons in democracy through his participation in the Puerto Rican Hispanic Youth Leadership Institute.

"Democracy is important. If you want a good country, if you want a good association, you do need to have the democracy. That's all you need. That's the balance, that's everything," Horta said.

Nearly 300 students from across the state gathered at the state Capitol to engage in a mock legislative session to discuss bills. Currently, only 8.5% of New York state legislators are Hispanic or Latin, a disparity these students hope to address in the future.

"I think that's really important to have that representation, especially among the upcoming generations, because these bills are going to be affecting us in our futures," said Kaitlyn Sepulveda, a high school senior.

Established more than 30 years ago by the late Assemblyman Angelo Del Toro, the program aims to engage Hispanic individuals in the democratic process.

"He [del Toro] went to the state education department. He said 'what if we do a program, a leadership program, where we can get them earlier so they can get involved, so they can understand how the political process works, how government works, and they can then be proponents and be engaged,' " said Gladys Cruz, district superintendent of Questar III BOCES and president of the National Association of Superintendents.