Manuel Oliver to Speak at FAU’s Student Activism Program

Barb Schmidt

By polly burks | 8/20/2018

Florida Atlantic University’s student activism program for high school students, “The Barb Schmidt Fellowship: Cultivating Community Involvement, Activism and Social Change,” will launch on Saturday, Aug. 25. Manuel Oliver, co-founder with his wife Patricia of “Change the Ref” (CTR), will be the keynote speaker for the day. Oliver’s address will begin at 11 a.m. in the University Theatre, 777 Glades Road, Boca Raton campus and is open to the public. CTR was founded in memory of the couple’s son, Joaquin Oliver, who was one of the 17 victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in February. For more information, contact Suzy Livingston at or 561-297-3158.

Manuel and Patricia Oliver are committed to making sure that their son’s life and the lives of the other 16 victims are never forgotten and that real change happens to prevent future tragedies like this from happening ever again. CTR gives the kids of today the tools they need to be empowered to make changes to critical issues that affect our nation, through education, conversation and activism.

The Barb Schmidt Fellowship program at FAU also has the goal of empowering youth by providing student leaders with a platform to develop the skills and knowledge needed to initiate, execute and sustain a social movement. The fellowship gives students hands-on experience through peer mentorship and workshops led by social influencers and FAU faculty. Students will learn key professional and technical skills that are essential for driving social change. 

The program will run on weekends throughout the 2018-19 school year with the goal of creating a project portfolio to include all aspects of social movement development and implementation by the end of the spring semester. The 30 high school students in the program are from Palm Beach and Broward counties and were chosen through an application process this past summer. The students will earn six college credits (three per semester) and a $1,000 stipend upon successful completion of both fall and spring semesters. 

“We have all been inspired by what youth leaders are doing to make our world a better place. We want to support the work being done by facilitating students’ growth in community engagement and social change efforts,” said Michael Horswell, Ph.D., dean of FAU’s Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters. “Becoming a Barb Schmidt Fellow will help students gain essential skills for successful organizing, foster partnerships through networking with other activists, university faculty and community leaders, and enable the launch of multiple projects for the benefit of our communities.” 

Donors interested in making a gift to support a student(s) fellowship can make a donation at or by contacting Gail Vorsas at gvorsas@fau.eduor 561-297-2337. All gifts to the program made by Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018 will be generously matched by Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life.