Charis Pitter’s passions fueled her leadership experience as a student, and she reflects on her time as an undergraduate and how it has helped pave her path to law school.
Charis Pitter remembers the first time she stepped foot on the University of Miami Coral Gables Campus. By the end of her campus tour, she was sure she had found the place to spend the next four years.
“I remember telling myself that day, ‘If I can find a way to go here, I am going here.’ After that, every school I visited couldn’t compare,” said Pitter, a Ronald A. Hammond scholar and a double major in political science and public administration.
Pitter, born and raised in Trinidad, enrolled at the University in 2018, equipped with a passion for community service and social change and eager to make an impact.
Early in her time as a student, the budding activist quickly got to work honing her leadership skills. As a member of the Caribbean Students Association, she served as a two-term president during her junior and senior years. Pitter presided over the multicultural organization of more than 400 members and mentored dozens of international students with their matriculation to the University, an opportunity that helped Pitter feel connected to her Trinidadian and Jamaican roots.
“I wanted to connect with my culture. In that role, I got to do that and help students from the islands assimilate to college. There’s a lot of culture shock coming to the US for the first time, and I had a lot of experience with that to help others,” Pitter said.
Pitter’s involvement with the Caribbean Students Association opened the door for other leadership positions on campus, she noted. After serving as a member of the Student Government’s First-Year Leadership Council, she returned to the Student Government in her senior year to serve as the director of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Council.
“The culmination of all my identities really helped me be impactful as director,” Pitter said. “I got to sit down and have really meaningful conversations with students from all areas of campus. There was so much dialogue that took place throughout the year that I feel like I was able to grow but also make sure that other students were having their voices heard on campus.”
As the director of DEI, Pitter led a group that focused on diverse supporting groups affected by global events and teaching them how to allocate funding to their organizations to support DEI initiatives across campus. The group also educated the community on ways to provide accessible resources, like American Sign Language interpreters, at student events to improve accessibility in the community.
Despite her already busy schedule, Pitter never relinquished the opportunity to inspire change on campus through community service.
As president of the University of Miami’s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), she and her peers focused their efforts on volunteer opportunities, informing students of issues affecting minority communities and helping to ensure fairness and equality for all students .
This spring, under her leadership, the NAACP chapter hosted its first NAACP Image Awards, recognizing outstanding students of color for their contributions and service to the University community.
“I’m really passionate about community service and education reform,” Pitter said. “Through the NAACP, we were really involved in more service-based work in the community. I spent a lot of time on passion projects giving back to the community.”
Pitter’s zeal-fueled her leadership experience as a student and her plans to pursue a law degree focusing on nonprofit work upon her graduation. She will start her journey at Harvard Law in the fall—a path Pitter could have never envisioned for herself if it weren’t for the support of her mentors, like Christopher Clarke, director of Multicultural Student Affairs (MSA).
“I met Charis as an advisor through her role in the Caribbean Students Association and her involvement with a lot of the programs we would put on in MSA. Through that, we built a great mentor-mentee relationship,” Clarke said.
“All of our students are sharp, but what caught my attention about Charis was that she was invested. She was invested in what she was doing,” he continued. “And even when she was not sure how it was going to go, she was invested in how to get there. A lot of the things that happened for her were because she was organized and invested in her organizations and in herself.”
“I didn’t think I would be anywhere near qualified for Harvard Law,” Pitter said. “[Christopher Clarke] built up my confidence to believe that I could reach that high. He gave me a lot of insight and confidence, and I owe a lot of my success to him and his support.”
Rounding out her leadership and scholastic achievements, Pitter is a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, a national leadership honor society that recognizes students for superior leadership and exemplary character. She is also a sister of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, where she serves on the executive board as its chair of technology.
Pitter also attributes her drive, passion, and success to one thing—her family.
“Everything I do is for them,” she said. “I’m the oldest of five siblings. I’ve always lived by this expectation that we lift as we climb. I really love my family,” she said, noting that her experience also inspired two of her younger siblings to become ‘Canes.
In reflecting on everything she has achieved in four years, Pitter will always be grateful for her time as a student at the University of Miami.
“When people ask me about college, I always say it’s been the best four years of my life. Even though I’m going on to exciting things, I made all my lifelong friends here. I know nothing is ever going to compare to my experience at UM.”