My First Time at the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences Conference!

Grace Rodriguez, Mu Zeta Chapter Member
Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences Employees (to the far left in the photo below)

This year I got to be a part of the 70th anniversary of Alpha Phi Sigma, the National Criminal Justice Honor Society. The conference was held at the Marriot Grand Marquis in New York, NY right in the heart of Time Square. We kicked off the conference with a very interesting icebreaker called “Happy Hour: It’s NOT About the Alcohol.” The point of the exercise is to get to know the other students who had attended the conference. We were to sit at a different table to answer questions about our interests and goals. I was surprised to find students with a variety of interests in the criminal justice and law fields. It just reminded me how versatileMy First Time at the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences Conference the criminal justice field really is.

The conference’s keynote speaker opened up with a great taste of justice and fairness. Barney Brown, who was wrongfully convicted and imprisoned at the age of 13, spoke of the struggles he faced while incarcerated in an adult prison for 38 years. His testimony was moving, very inspiring and showed his perseverance for freedom and justice. The entire room was moved by his message and that was “we live in the best country in the world where justice is always served – sooner or later.” His sincerity and passion for justice were evident. He is now the Senior Legal Representative for the law firm that assisted him in his release.

Throughout the days, several presentations made their way into what proved to be an excellent conference. The various topics that were covered included mock trials, crime scene scenarios, and DUI presentations. Our chapter, Mu Zeta of Florida National University as we are known, also made their mark at the conference. We competed for the community service project of the year and won! Our chapter presented on bullying. We worked with our existing children of inmates mentees and incorporated a program successfully used in public schools. Our chapter decided that having this anti-bullying policy at the public school level was great but it was not enough and so, we decided to take the same ideals to the private school sector. Our chapter implemented the anti-bullying policy in private schools in Miami-Dade County for middle and high schools. Our community service was so innovative and impacting that out of 45 colleges and universities represented in this category, we won the community service project of the year and were presented with a scholarship and certificate of recognition.

Other chapter accomplishments at the conference include the following:

Advisor of the Year – Our chapter advisor, Jelenny Hernandez was recognized as the 2012 Advisor of the Year among a participating 400 + institutions.

Advisor Grant – Presented to Jelenny Hernandez, Chapter Advisor, to apply to a scholarship of her own design to benefit members of our chapter.

Yoalmis Rivero – Chapter Vice President, presented on a research review she worked on related to the misuse of power by police. She was recognized for her research and will be presented in the next publication that is quarterly sent out by the National Criminal Justice Honor Society.

Mearli Orozco – Chapter Treasurer and Secretary, was presented with a scholarship honoring her academic excellence and community service in our field.

The conference closed with a very appropriate Retro Ball in which all the decades starting from the 40’s, were represented by the participating institutions. Our chapter decided to represent the 40’s in honor of the inception of Alpha Phi Sigma.

It was bittersweet having to say goodbye to those we had made friends with. I learned a lot from this experience and I’m working toward inspiring my colleagues to attend next year’s conference in Dallas, Texas. I cannot wait!