We are proud to share that CUNY BA senior, John Aderounmu, was recently featured in an AM New York article highlighting CUNY student leaders. John is a Hunter College based CUNY BA student studying Computer Science and Mathematics is also the Chair of CUNY’s University Student Senate and a student member of CUNY’s Board of Trustees. Read more from AM New York and see why John was selected to represent excellence and leadership among CUNY students!
John Aderounmu, 21
Humility is among the rarest of leadership traits, yet there is no shortage of it in John Aderounmu.
Aderounmu, 21, relocated from Nigeria five years ago at 16, moving in with relatives in Far Rockaway, Queens. The way he describes it, after years of visiting New York City on summer break, “it was inevitable” that he’d end up pursuing higher education in the city.
However, just months after he arrived in 2012, superstorm Sandy struck. He and his family were without power for about two weeks and the family home suffered significant flooding damage in the basement. When asked if the disaster made him think twice about his plans to study in NYC, his reply was simple:
“Oh, not at all. I come from a country where the power outages are kind of a norm,” Aderounmu says. “We didn’t get it as bad as some parts of Far Rockaway, so we felt lucky.”
This humility is reflected in every step of his story. He enrolled in the Borough of Manhattan Community College with the intention of pursuing a “safe” career in computer science; however, he encountered mentors and inspirational figures along the way that steered his path toward representative democracy.
Now a Hunter College student, he serves as the chairperson of the CUNY University Student Senate and holds a seat on the CUNY board of trustees.
The idea of student government was initially foreign to him. His schooling experience in Nigeria was academic-intensive, he says, and included only a few extracurricular options.
“It wasn’t until my last semester [at BMCC] that I joined the student government,” Aderounmu says. “I had a friend who was also an immigrant from Africa, Mohammed Omar . . . he told me I should join the student government.”
With his friend’s support, Aderounmu ran for Senate, won, and ultimately assumed the role of president of the Student Government Association, or SGA, at Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC).
At Hunter, his top priorities as the CUNY University Student Senate chairperson center on making the body an effective vessel of change, “instead of just event-planning and organizing,” he says.
“One thing we’re talking about right now is the student activity fee,” he says. “It’s a fee controlled by the students, they dictate what the money is used for. We want to make sure it remains that way, and we’re in the middle of that discussion right now.”
Ashtian Holmes, director of the Urban Male Leadership Academy (UMLA), remembers meeting Aderounmu in 2015 when he first started attending BMCC. A formative mentor in his life, Holmes still stays in close contact with Aderounmu today.
“He was kind of a quiet, soft-spoken person,” Holmes recalls. “When he was first involved with UMLA he was going through a lot. He had tremendous potential from the get-go, but it was SGA where he made that known to the world, so to speak.”
Holmes, having watched Aderounmu grow and develop a “high emotional intelligence” over the last several years, recalls a moment when it hit him just how far Aderounmu had come.
“I remember when I sat in on an SGA meeting. The way he commanded the table, I just thought to myself, ‘Oh, he’s here,’” Holmes says. “I remember thinking to myself, ‘Wow, he’s going to be something.’”
CUNY board of trustees chairman William C. Thompson Jr. agrees.
“John, quite simply, is an exemplary young man,” Thompson Jr. says in a statement. “There is no doubt in the minds of those of us who have had the good fortune of getting to know this special individual that he will succeed at whatever endeavor he puts his mind to.”
But if you ask the always-humble Aderounmu, he’s still got a long way to go. While he plans to pursue a law degree one day to help represent immigrants in New York who have no means to defend themselves, he’s taking the most pragmatic approach possible.
“Once I graduate in May, I hope to go into the work industry, then eventually go into law school,” he says. “I need to sort out my finances, and then get ready for law school.”