People and Community University

Changemakers ready to forge the future

Five University of Miami students were selected to attend the ACC Leadership Symposium, a three-day student leadership conference, and reflect on their experience learning alongside students from their peer institutions.

Five University of Miami students attended the ACC Leadership Symposium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, earlier this month with representatives from other ACC institutions. Shown are, from left, Keren Perez, Jonathan Jean Charles, advisor Gabrielle Perez, Richelle Still, Roy Carrillo Zamora, and Sydney Corrodus.


Through the Butler Center for Service and Leadership, five University of Miami students identified as changemakers in the community were selected to attend the ACC Leadership Symposium. 

This year’s symposium, which took place at the University of Pittsburgh from Feb. 17 to 19, touted the theme, “Forging a Future For All,” and offered group learning, individual breakout sessions, and in-depth looks into actual case studies from ACC peer institutions. 

With students from each of the Atlantic Coast Conference colleges and universities in attendance, the three-day event is designed to develop a community of undergraduate peers who understand the relationship between global and local issues. Attendees are positioned to work collaboratively to find innovative ways to further their capabilities as community leaders. 

The five students shared about what they learned and how they will be taking their new skills and utilizing them in their roles as leaders at the University. 

Roy Carrillo Zamora, a sophomore majoring in legal studies and business analytics.

Participating in the ACC Leadership Symposium at the University of Pittsburgh this past weekend was an amazing experience where I got to meet student leaders from other schools in the country and learned how to become better at forging a future for all. I especially enjoyed working with leaders from other schools on a project where we had to identify a social issue present on our campuses and develop a proposal to address it. Hearing what experiences students have in other schools with diversity and inclusion made me think about how UM can become a better campus for all. Also, learning about programs that other schools have to handle these issues gave me a lot of ideas we can implement here on campus.

My team’s proposal was titled “Social Inclusion and Representation” and focused on how we could use universities’ resources to bring more inclusion. I spoke on how budget allocation committees should implement policies that incentivize programing between student organizations. This would streamline the budgeting process, allow for bigger and more accessible events, and bring together students from different organizations. I’m excited to keep the connections I made during the weekend and plan to continue to be involved on campus to bring these ideas into fruition and make a better, more united University of Miami.

Keren Perez, a junior studying biology.

Perhaps my most special academic adventure this year was the ACC Leadership Symposium. As a UM delegate, I learned from amazing leaders how to make a change on campus. They motivated me to impact the lives of my fellow classmates and serve the underserved. But most importantly (and unexpectedly) I learned about myself. To be self-aware, to live in the present, and to be a “thermostat”—someone who can change their environment instead of adjusting to it.

My greatest memory was connecting with students from other schools. I saw the world from a perspective I had not previously considered. Everyone had valuable knowledge to share. As a result, from the ACC conference, I will take with me the beautiful friendships, useful knowledge, and vast skills I learned. I will apply these abilities as the president of “iStudy,” biology workshop leader, Foote Fellow mentor, and in much more. I am determined to make the University of Miami a better place for all. 

Jonathan Jean Charles, a first-year student majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology.

The ACC Leadership Symposium was truly life changing. It gave me a renewed sense of life by teaching me the importance of adversity, diversity, and effective leadership. I learned that our society needs more thermostats rather than thermometers. Many are often swift to detect issues that plague our society while few are focused on solving the issues and “changing the temperature.” It is important to not leave unfinished business behind and to remember to take care of yourself. It is hard to help others and pour into them when your cup is empty.

The symposium taught me the significance of consistent growth, mental health, having a solution-based mindset, and thinking critically from multiple lenses. As I continue my undergraduate education, I hope to consider thinking critically and selflessly when striving to solve community-identified issues in the University of Miami community. I also aspire to cherish and nurture my relationships with the student body and faculty. To me, they are not just ordinary people. They are part of a larger family, one that will continue to be a beacon of hope and leadership in our society.  

Richelle Still, a sophomore studying international studies.

The ACC Leadership Conference was a once in a lifetime experience for me. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the other students in my delegation. As a unit, I believe we instantly connected and represented the university well. One of the things I appreciated the most was the ability to learn from other students in the ACC about their schools and life experiences. I think the opportunity to compare and contrast school experiences while pinpointing the greatest parts of our schools was enlightening. We can take the best aspects from each and implement them in every school to create the best higher education experience for all.

To have a future for all, our goal should be to work with others and not for them. When we humble ourselves into working as a team, we are able to learn so much more than when we would if we worked alone. More than that, we are able to then make a change for the greater good. I am so grateful I had the opportunity to attend the ACC Leadership Symposium and highly recommend other students to apply when the next chance comes.  

Sydney Corrodus, a sophomore studying nursing.

It was an honor to represent the University of Miami at this year’s ACC Leadership Symposium. I really enjoyed meeting student delegates from the different schools. Throughout the weekend, I worked with a team of students composed of various and diverse backgrounds, races, and religions. Our different experiences helped us to brainstorm effective ways that our universities can improve various social justice issues on our campuses and in the community. I left the symposium motivated to be a leader who listens to their team. There is so much we can learn from listening to those who are different from ourselves.