Access Symposium 2021 video recordings, slides, and other resources shared by presenters by clicking the links below.
Day 3 Opening Keynote Plenary
11:00 AM – 11:45 AM ET
Former Students: Where Are They Now?
Each year at the Aurora Institute Symposium, youth take the stage for an unfiltered conversation about what’s working in personalized, competency-based design efforts and offer guidance to set a path for the future of teaching and learning. This year, we are inviting some of those former student panelists back to the stage for a glimpse into their lives and to understand how their student-centered educational experiences shaped who they are today. Join this keynote plenary to learn what has prepared them to be successful change makers in today’s world and how we might recreate those experiences for today’s youth.
Yvonne Armenta, Internal Communications Manager, Healthline Media
Born and raised in San Francisco, CA, Yvonne is a Communications Specialist that is passionate about helping individuals find confidence through public speaking. She is a first-generation college graduate, having received her Bachelor of Arts in Media Studies and Native American and Indigenous Studies from UC Berkeley and her Masters in Business Administration from San Jose State University.
Prior to her role as communications manager at Healthline Media, she was on the experimental marketing team at A2Z Media Group and on the Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion team at Uber Technologies.
In 2020, Yvonne began her platform on Instagram, Chats with Yvonne, to guide people towards mastering the art of public speaking, while also recognizing the vulnerability that comes with “perfecting” the art. Yvonne hopes to not only humanize the public speaking experience, but also help everyone gain the confidence she knows they can attain through her framework: Reflect. Connect. Share.
Aaryn M. Finklea, Special Education Classroom Assistant, Chicago Public Schools
Aaryn M. Finklea is an artist, an educator, and a lifelong learner. He has worked in Chicago Public Schools for the past seven years as a Special Education Classroom Assistant. Aaryn is passionate about helping his students take ownership of their learning. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Film/Cinema/Video Studies from Columbia College Chicago and his Master of Education from DePaul University. Aaryn is currently preparing to pursue a doctoral degree in Curriculum and Instruction.
Alyssia Leach, Business Marketing Student, University of Louisville
Alyssia Leach is 20-year-old student entrepreneur studying Marketing with a minor in Entrepreneurship at the University of Louisville. She is a Louisville, Kentucky native that has been making strides in her community to promote the importance of education and entrepreneurship through her social media platforms. She has a community of 100k+ on TikTok and she shares creative ideas on entrepreneurship where she plans to expand her presence to inspire more people to take the leap as well.
Angel A. Velez, Junior, Rutgers University; Human Resources Manager, Student Voice
Angel A. Velez is an undergraduate student currently pursuing a Bachelors’ degree in Public and Nonprofit Administration with a minor in Social Justice at Rutgers University – Newark. He is also a part of the Honors Living & Learning Community (HLLC), Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF), and TRIO Student Support Services (SSS). His current work focuses on preparing for his master’s in Public Administration, with plans to research the relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico. He plans to teach at La Universidad de Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, while he is simultaneously working in Government on the island. Angel works for Student Voice as the Human Resources Manager and in Human Resources Information Systems for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. He previously worked as a Program Coordinator for the organizing Fellowship program at Student Voice where he worked alongside Maya Green, Organizing Director, and other program leaders to provide resources and knowledge to students fighting for Education Justice and inequity.
Loretta Goodwin, Chief Operating Officer, Aurora Institute
Loretta Goodwin joined the Aurora Institute as Chief Operating Officer in November 2020. In this role she leads the Aurora Institute staff; owns talent management and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI); aligns the work on the ground with the organization’s mission, vision, values, and goals; and supports the CEO and Board of Directors in crafting a new, long-range strategic plan.
Most recently, she was the Deputy Director at the American Youth Policy Forum, focused on promoting equitable education for all young people by providing professional learning opportunities to policymakers. She oversaw AYPF’s DEI efforts, as well as instituting innovative staff professional development. An educator at heart, she has worked consistently in the fields of education reform from her teaching days in her native South Africa to dissertation research for her doctorate on Soviet education reform. She currently also serves as adjunct faculty at the George Washington University’s School of Business, teaching a class on career management strategy.
Dr. Goodwin holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Cape Town, a Higher Diploma of Education from the University of Cape Town, master’s degrees from Wesleyan University and the University of Washington, in History and Political Science, and a Ph.D. in History from Princeton University.
Day 3 Sessions
12:00-1:00 PM ET – Breakout Sessions
1:15-1:35 PM ET – Power Sessions and Programs to Watch
Day 3 Closing Keynote Plenary
1:45 PM – 2:45 PM ET
The Time Is Now: Students Take the Driver’s Seat to Share Reflections on the Past to Inform Innovative, Student-Centered Education Transformation for the Future
We are at an inflection point. Ensuring student success requires a radical shift, one that prioritizes student-centered learning and students as agents. Join Jemar Lee — a young, nationally respected advocate for learner-centered education and an educational entrepreneur — in conversation with four high school students. Learn from the students’ experiences over the past 20 months, realizations from remote learning, and aspirations for the future of school that adequately meets their needs.
Torin Hodgman, Senior, Grand Rapids Public Museum High School
Torin Hodgman is a senior at the Grand Rapids Public Museum High School. They are a part of a few organizations where they volunteer their time, some being GRPS, Comprehensive Therapy Center, Grand Rapids Community Foundation, XQ, the Grand Rapids Civic Theater, and more. At their school, Torin and two other students have created a skeleton to a system called the Super Advocates. Their goal for the Super Advocates is to be a student-led advocacy board whose focus is to combat injustice and inequity within their school. Their goal is to amplify student voices and create a space for their stakeholders (students, staff, parents, and guardians) to be heard and seen. Currently, they are trial-running this system at their school, calling it the Grand Rapids Public Museum High School Super Advocates. Torin and their team look forward to continuing their work for Super Advocates as their senior capstone project as well as working with other organizations/teams like XQ.
Mark Holden, 2021 Graduate, Ponaganset High School
Mark Holden is a 2021 graduate of Ponaganset High School, where he served as the senior class president and took part in a wide range of in-school clubs and teams such as soccer, mathletes, and the voter registration group. He also took part in a group of students that are introducing a new student government system for the school, and as a senior passion project he attempted to push for a life skills pathway. His favorite part about going to Ponaganset is the connection he built with his teachers. He feels blessed by having supportive and open-minded teachers who want to see the best out of their students — not just in class, but in life, as well.
Daniella Munoz, 10th Grade Student, PSI High
Daniella Munoz is a 10th grade student at PSI High. She is a competitive swimmer and an ambassador at her school. Her goal is to make a change in the world and help improve high schools. She likes to state her mind and express her voice on what she believes in. Her philosophy is that when it comes to school, students are number one because schools are designed for students to learn.
Zoey Young, 2021 Graduate, Iowa BIG; Freshman, Lake Forest College
Zoey Young is a 2021 graduate of Iowa BIG and a current freshman at Lake Forest College in Illinois, where she plans to major in Biology/Environmental Science. She is not only passionate about the environment and maintaining biodiversity, but she is also dedicated to helping students realize their full potential. During her time in high school, she was a member of the Student Advisory Committee at XQ Institute where she served as a student advocate. She shared her insights on her high school experience, assisted in XQ’s design process, and supported the organization’s storytelling efforts across their digital platforms. Most recently, Zoey co-designed XQ’s first-ever student-led Community Practice event where she spoke on behalf of herself and her peers to an audience of school leaders from around the country to help them gain insight on how we can help prepare students for success. Zoey is in the perfect position to give a perspective that is both now and next focused. She can speak to what has worked, what doesn’t, and what high school students currently need. She believes high schools should be better and she is doing what she can to make that happen.
Facilitator: Jemar Lee, Graduate, Iowa BIG; Fellow, Education Reimagined; Senior, Morningside University
Jemar Lee is alumnus of Iowa BIG and a current senior at Morningside University in Sioux City, Iowa. At Morningside, Jemar is pursuing a double majoring in Business Administration and Public Policy & Social Entrepreneurship and completing minors concentrated in Sociology and Pre-Legal studies. He will be serving as the University’s Omicron Delta Kappa president, a national leadership honor society, for the year. Aside from academics, Jemar has a passion for transforming the education system to ensure all students experience an education that is built off of equity and assures that no matter what background, ethnicity, or social-economic status that one will succeed. By doing this, he serves as a fellow with Education Reimagined, a national nonprofit based in Washington DC committed to the creation of a just and inclusive world where every child is loved, honored, and supported – working to make learner-centered education available to and of high-quality for every child in the country, regardless of race, background, or circumstance. In addition, he serves as a Future of School Ambassador. This has led him to speak and present at many conferences around the country, including SXSWedu, Aurora Institute, Education Elements, LEAP Innovations, Congress Staffers: Cannon House Office Building, 2018 Iowa Governor’s Future Ready Iowa Summit, and much more. Jemar will be graduating from Morningside University in May of 2022.