As we turn the page on 2013, the world is working to turn the corner on some of the 21st century’s most persistent challenges, including poverty, inadequate access to education, and threats to the environment.
Despite the various social and economic issues that remain, there is much to look forward to in the new year—just ask Millennials, whose unwavering optimism in the face of adversity has been revealed through global surveys and documented in the media.
However, Generation Y’s passion for building a better future is most palpable in person. At last year’s Clinton GIobal Initiative University meeting, more than 1,000 young problem-solvers from more than 85 countries came together to share and advance ideas that ranged from eliminating paper receipts on college campuses to increasing awareness of the Affordable Health Care Act among immigrant communities.
More resources than ever will be available to college and graduate students interested in addressing urgent challenges through CGI U 2014, which will be hosted by President Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton March 21-23 at Arizona State University. Read below for a glimpse of three young leaders making a case for optimism in 2014—and for further details on how you can get involved.
FIGHTING URBAN DECAY
Who: DeAndrea Nichols, Graduate Student, Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis
The Problem: Once a thriving neighborhood, St. Louis’ Hyde Park has fought a decades-long battle with urban decline. Dilapidated and abandoned homes impact not only the aesthetics of the community, but also its quality of life.
How DeAndrea is Making a Difference: In 2013, DeAndrea created a CGI U Commitment to Action to engage disadvantaged youth in Hyde Park, empowering them to address residential vacancy in their community through her social startup Design Serves (D*Serve). Last April, D*Serve mobilized Hyde Park residents and volunteers from around the world to redesign a vacant house into a youth arts space. Through the CGI U commitment, D*Serve has also led children ages 3 through 19 in the creation of an urban worm farm that will collect, compost, and develop trash into fertilizer for use or sale.
What We’re Looking Forward To: A year after her first CGI U experience, DeAndrea is gearing up for CGI U 2014, where she plans to expand her expedition into social entrepreneurship. For this year’s meeting, she is committing to develop United Story, a platform that uses powerful narratives to tap into social topics relevant to the St. Louis community.
BRINGING RESOURCES TO RURAL TANZANIA
Who: Marisa Ranieri, Graduate Student, New York University
The Problem: In Tanzania, educational resources—including teaching staff and classroom supplies—have not kept pace with the dramatic increase in school enrollment over the past decade. The majority of poor Tanzanians live in rural communities, where students regularly go without their own books and even writing utensils.
How Marisa is Making a Difference: Through her CGI U 2012 commitment, Marisa—who recently spent 10 months teaching at a secondary school in the small village of Muyenzi—launched Tanzania 365 to improve educational resources and outcomes for her students. The blog aims to increase cross-cultural understanding by connecting American students with pupils in Tanzania. In addition, she’s already raised $500 for school supplies to use in the classroom.
What We’re Looking Forward To: Recognizing the prohibitive cost of school fees in Tanzania, Marisa is coming to CGI U 2014 with a plan to raise $5,000 for the Nyota Fund, an academic scholarship she recently launched for children in the country's remote Ngara District. Building on the success of her 2012 Commitment to Action, Marisa hopes the Fund will send 50 secondary school students in Tanzania to school for a year, with meals and essential supplies.
TURNING THE TIDE ON WATER POLLUTION
Who: Jared Schoepf, Graduate Student, Arizona State University
The Problem: In urban communities, rain lives on long after the storm. Stormwater runoff collects the litter on the ground, then flows into street curb drains and eventually larger storm drains that dump the trash into rivers, lakes, and fragile environments. Although the runoff pollutes the drinking supply, kills plants, and destroys animal nests, many municipalities either neglect the problem or implement inefficient, high-maintenance solutions. Last year, only a quarter of Phoenix residents were aware that their stormwater flows into area rivers untreated, according to a 2012 survey.
How Jared is Making a Difference: In 2013, the chemical engineering major developed Sustainable Storm Solutions as his CGI U commitment to Action. Jared reports that his organization is building and testing an innovative new grate filtration system that, unlike other designs in place, resists clogging and erosion—and that so far, the City of Phoenix is on board.
What We’re Looking Forward To: At CGI U 2014, Jared will set his sights beyond Phoenix, committing to address water shortages in a small South African community. Inspired by his success at last year’s meeting, Jared is working to develop SafeSIPP, which will provide the village of 2,500 people with a new water purification and transportation system that will reduce travel time by 75 percent.
Other optimistic students around the world are also encouraged to develop solutions for the future. Applications for CGI U 2014 are open until January 17. Apply online now.