My Weekend At Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) University

This past March, I was honored with an invitation to attend CGI University (CGI U) in Miami as a member of Chelsea Clinton’s CGI LEAD program – a global community of accomplished young industry professionals and entrepreneurs who are passionate about engaging with the work of CGI members and committed to collaborating with the next generation of leaders to address our world’s urgent challenges. Here I am with two of my newest CGI LEAD buddies from the west coast – Aled Miles (also a member of CGI’s Elephant Action Network) and Elpida Harner.

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CGIU-2015

What’s CGI University?

Building on the successful model of Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), where members of the CGI community have made nearly 3,200 commitments which have improved the lives of over 430 million people in more than 180 countries,

President Clinton launched the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) in 2007 to engage the next generation of leaders on college campuses around the world. Each year, CGI U hosts a meeting where students, university representatives, topic experts, and celebrities come together to discuss and develop innovative solutions to pressing global challenges. President Clinton, Secretary Clinton, and Chelsea Clinton hosted CGI U 2015 at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida from March 6-8, 2015. The meeting brought together more than 1,100 students to make a difference in CGI U’s five focus areas: Education, Environment and Climate Change, Peace and Human Rights, Poverty Alleviation, and Public Health.

Some pretty amazing highlights included:

16124739533_6ee81fdd88 IMG_3357A panel session with America Ferrera, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Tawakkol Karman, Yale student Paul Lorem (grabbed a pic with this EXTRAORDINARY young man), and Vivek Murthy, United States Surgeon General.

e3d77af6-6825-4743-86fc-7f74c92673ef_2400On the eve of International Women’s Day, The Clinton Foundation geared up to launch NoCeilings.org and its “Not There” awareness campaign on gender inequality. During the Closing Plenary Session, Chelsea Clinton and Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton previewed the release of the No Ceilings Full Participation Report by the Clinton Foundation and Gates Foundation – See more at: https://www.clintonfoundation.org/blog/2015/03/30/young-women-aspire-change-world-clinton-global-initiative-university#sthash.jL7xYTO1.dpuf

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President Clinton sat down with Larry Wilmore, Host of “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore,” about a broad range of topics, focusing on the impact that commitments made by CGI U students are having around the world. On the panel were also members of Pussy Riot. THAT was a trip. Watch their full conversation on YouTube. See more at: https://www.clintonfoundation.org/blog/2015/03/07/highlights-cgi-university-2015#sthash.MuTgo0Hl.dpuf

During the sponsor’s reception, I had a chance to spend a few moments chatting with Aloe Blac, Julia Rosenbaum (runs CGI LEAD), and the President himself (THAT was pretty damn cool).

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CGI U is more than just an event. It is a growing community of young leaders who don’t just discuss global challenges – they take real, concrete steps toward solving them. Throughout the year, and as a prerequisite of attending the CGI U meeting, students develop their own Commitments to Action: new, specific, and measurable initiatives that address pressing challenges on campus, in local communities, or around the world. Commitments range from manufacturing wheelchairs for developing countries to establishing campus bike share programs, from creating free vision clinics to developing e-learning applications for mobile phones.

CGI U is proof that young people have the power to make a significant impact by confronting some of the world’s most urgent challenges. Since 2008, students have made more than 5,500 Commitments to Action, and nearly $2 million in funding has been awarded to these commitment-makers through CGI U.

IMG_3359Chelsea Clinton hosted a lunch for about a dozen of us CGI LEAD members, where I was introduced to an amazing young lady named Guardiana ‘Guerdi’ Thelomar, a student of University of Miami and member of CGI U. Guerdi has made an incredible Commitment To Take Action in Haiti, and I’m so proud to have been chosen as her mentor – assisting her in implementing her strategy. Here’s an overview of her commitment:

Generation Hope: Gade Li! (Look At This!)

Gade Li is a photography workshop that will provide Haitian youth with opportunities to share their stories and desires for change in their communities. This will be a week-long workshop where 30-40 Haitian youth will learn skills and techniques for visual storytelling. They will then go out and document the social issues affecting their community of St. Marc through their own eyes and will have a chance to display their work. This workshop will serve as a form of activism and empowerment as these youth demand through their photos for everyone to stop and “Gade Li!” (Look at this!)

For me, the absolute highlight of CGI U was our Day of Action in the community of Liberty City. The President, Chelsea Clinton, The Miami Children’s Initiative, and CGI U students, worked with locals including former Miami Heat player, Shane Battier, and members of the Miami Dolphins, to beautify a housing complex and help make the property a better place for its families.

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These students’ commitment to the work was astounding, and I was left with a renewed spirit of civic duty. And I just fell in love with this little boy =)

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Here’s another pic with CGI LEAD member Elpida Harner, and another with CGI U member, Naomi Ross.

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For far more pictures, check out this post by Cecilia Gutierrez,
 CEO of Miami Children’s Initiative on The Clinton Foundation’s blog, detailing our activities during the Day of Action  => HERE

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