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St. Thomas University partners with Student ACES

By May 28, 2020STU News
small universities in Florida

St. Thomas University (STU) has continued to develop a partnership with STU Sports Hall of Fame member, Buck Martinez, and Student ACES (Athletics + Community + Engagement). This charity offers character education programs to High School students in South Florida. Student ACES was founded in 2013, and the collaboration with St. Thomas University will continue to enhance the Ethical Leadership program while develop-ing student-athletes into “Leaders for Life.”

STU launched the Institute for Ethical Leadership, which began in the spring of 2020, as part of the Gus Machado School of Business. The institute leveraged St. Thomas University’s faith-based identity and incorporated values into a curriculum that sought to develop learners’ understanding of leadership effectiveness, instill key business competencies such as finance, technical literacy, and business management while developing essential soft skills like critical thinking and communications.
St. Thomas University President David A. Armstrong, J.D., established the Institute for Ethical Leadership, which offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees.

“At St. Thomas University, we take pride in developing ‘Leaders for Life,” said President Armstrong. “People believe leaders are born; I don’t. I believe that you can educate people to become leaders by developing skills, through programs like Student ACES.”
President Armstrong added, “we are fortunate to have an alumnus of STU [Buck] who has developed a program that enables us to educate our students to be ethical leaders in the global community. It is not about saying ‘Leaders for Life,’ it’s about creating resources to instill leadership know-how in our students and we are fortunate to have the Student ACES program as a partner.”

The focus of ACE Leadership Group, during the COVID-19 pandemic, has been to host Zoom sessions with the STU athletics teams, including Football, Baseball, and Softball, as well as Men’s & Women’s Soccer teams. ACE Leadership Group developed plans for leadership practices and programs with individualized themes. “It has been an honor to partner with St. Thomas University to build a world-class Leadership program. The commitment from President Armstrong, Bill Rychel, and the entire STU coaching staff and student-athletes have been admirable,’ said Buck Martinez, ACE Leadership Group Founder.

ACE Leadership’s plan for football was to have team members develop a program manual called “Championship Standards,” to be implemented by the coaching staff, following its approval. “Championship Standards,” is meant to design how the Football program will be operated, following the inaugural season in 2019. St. Thomas University Athletics Director and Head Football Coach, Bill Rychel, has experienced the impact of the ACE Leadership organization, in the athletic department and within his football program.
“Having the ACE Leadership program and Buck [Martinez] team up with our Athletic Department has been a huge success. Not only has it added to our Mission by building ‘Leaders for Life,’ and it has brought normalcy to our student-athletes lives,” said Rychel. “As we transitioned to remote learning this spring, it allowed our students to stay engaged and be a part of a team, in an alternative capacity.”

Athletic Director Rychel added, “ACE Leadership Group has provided another platform for our football program to build our culture. Every team needs to develop leadership, create a culture of accountability, and develop standards; that are magnified in a program like ours. Buck has a different voice, beyond our coaching staff to express our values of ‘Championship Standards,’ leading our student-athletes to compete to be the best in all they do.

The partnership with ACE Leadership Group, St. Thomas University, and the Institute for Ethical Leadership will continue to develop STU students and mold them into “Leaders for Life.” Student-Athlete Advisory Committee President and Women’s Soccer player, Maria Vega, was the first person enrolled in the Ethical Leadership graduate program and has developed as a leader in the Miami Gardens community.

Vega has used leadership skills she learned through the Student ACES program to captain the women’s soccer team, despite battling an injury. “In the time I was sidelined due to my knee injury, I couldn’t physically help my team. The Student ACES program put my adversity into perspective; I was able to see the privileges and blessings that I have and that I am still able to contribute in a meaningful way,” said Vega.

Vega added, “Student ACES made me realize that being a student-athlete is bigger than the game and more significant than the grade, it’s about the impact that you have on people by setting an example for them and being selfless to your teammates.”
By partnering with ACE Leadership Group ACE, St. Thomas University will begin teaching leadership courses and providing Buck Martinez’s book, “Seven Steps to Success,” which will be featured in all university preparation courses.

To learn more about the ACE Leadership group, visit To learn more about Student ACES charity, visit

Isabel Gamarra

Author Isabel Gamarra

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