In a deaf Jamaican community he visited last year, Zach De La Rosa was given a special sign — a Z drawn over the heart, meant to reflect his good character.
Back at UNC, De La Rosa is more commonly known as speaker of Student Congress, and some of his colleagues speak similar praises.
His career in Student Congress began in April 2010 when he ran as a representative for the 92nd Congress. Two years later, he is preparing to leave the body with a legacy of having simplified the Student Code.
Tonight, the finance committee of Student Congress will address the final section of the Student Code that hasn’t yet been modified.
The code is the primary document that governs how student government operates, covering topics from how elections work to how student groups receive funding each year.
“He has successfully rewritten and condensed the entire Student Code — that’s his crowning achievement of the year,” said Jared Simmons, the committee’s chairman.
De La Rosa will be the first speaker in recent years to serve out his entire term, he said.
“When I came to the job, I knew I wasn’t leaving,” De La Rosa said. “We had a lot of stuff to do.”
Chief among these priorities was the organization of the Student Code.
“It was very difficult to follow, and some rules were repetitive or even contradicted each other,” he said.
Groups that hope to get money from Student Congress must pass a test on the contents of the code, so rewriting it helps students, he said.
“We streamlined the financial process, streamlined the election and appointment process,” De La Rosa said.
Parts of the code were cut, while others were expanded.
“There were a lot of antiquated rules we frankly just threw out,” De La Rosa said. “There were also rules for accountability that needed to be put in place.”
An oversight committee was created to monitor the use of student fees. It created an inventory so groups can borrow items from student government.
There are projects De La Rosa didn’t get to start, he said. One idea was to combine the Resident Adviser program and the Residence Hall Association.
Student Body President Mary Cooper attributed De La Rosa’s success to his leadership style.
“He tells it to you straight, and he has a great vision,” she said.
De La Rosa is pragmatic in the face of differing opinions, Simmons said.
“The key to the system is compromise and patience because you’re never going to get your way entirely,” De La Rosa said.
Simmons said De La Rosa has been able to maintain a firm grasp on the overall operations of Student Congress.
“Before taking office, I had the impression it would be hard to work with (Student) Congress, but I found it enjoyable and easy,” Cooper said.
A new speaker will take over in April, and De La Rosa will move to southern Texas in June to teach high school math with Teach For America.
“My dad was a teacher, and I look up to my dad,” he said. “The core of it is public service.”
He said he hopes to improve his Spanish, continue to learn Mandarin and write music. Afterwards, he plans to get a Ph.D. in economics.
“Maybe I’ll wind up at the World Bank,” he said. “That would be amazing.”
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