Cesia Melendez, a junior, became the first John Brown University student invited to attend the South American Business Forum (SABF), an international conference for university students in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The three-day conference is a forum for 100 handpicked university students and current business, political and academic leaders to exchange ideas on the topic of sustainable development.
This year the conference centered on the theme, The Age of Collaboration—inspiring people to be work together rather than separately to be more influential.
“We have to think globally but act locally,” Melendez said. “It would be hard for one person to change the whole world, but if we work together with people from around the world, we can make a contribution.”
With this idea in mind, Melendez now communicates regularly with three students from the conference—a student from Argentina with a scholarship to Harvard, a student who interned with Google and a student from the Netherlands who works for Unilever.
Melendez, who is triple majoring in international business, marketing and business administration, hopes to impact the world through social entrepreneurship—creating businesses that help people. Melendez said she does not just want to give people money, but give them the tools to make money for themselves.
“To move [them] from dependency, you have to give them the tools—resources and education.” Melendez said.
Melendez is from Guatemala and attends JBU as part of the Walton Scholarship Program. After graduation she will return to Guatemala and is committed to making a difference there and around the world.
“It’s my country. It’s my people and I want to help my people,” Melendez said. “God’s given me so many opportunities and so many gifts: the Walton Scholarship, studying in the United States and this gift of going to the SABF. I want to address the needs and now I have connections from around the world to help me do that.”
Melendez is already taking steps in fulfilling her dreams by leading the Enactus Guatemala Water Project this year.
“If she starts something, she will finish it,” said Dr. Joe Walenciak, dean of the Soderquist College of Business. “She has emerged as a leader—remarkable young lady with excellent capabilities.”
Melendez, encouraged by the students who shared the same goals and aspirations as she did, hopes she can be an inspiration to others to follow their dreams and impact the world.
“There are a lot of young people with dreams,” Melendez said. “But when they go out into the real world, the world changes their dream. Don’t let the world change your dreams but let your dreams change the world.”