This year CGI U made the decision to visit my home state of Arizona and bring with it motivated students, ideas, and conversations that will incite positive change here and all over the world. However, as all of the students from Arizona State University who were selected to attend CGI U this year could tell you, we’ve been working towards this same goal for years, and we’re thrilled to be able to exchange experiences and work with other students who have been doing the same in their area of the world.
Due to the local and global implications of my project, the City of Phoenix Public Works Department has been supporting my endeavor, as well as ASU who selected it as an Innovation Challenge finalist. Now CGI U has also provided their backing. It is truly an exciting time, and I happy to be that much closer to making the positive global impacts I’ve dreamt about a reality and have the support of great organizations like CGI U along the way.
However, my Commitment to Action isn’t just one project, it’s a lifestyle. When I’m not attending graduate school, I am a full-time employee of Keep Phoenix Beautiful, the local affiliate of the national organization Keep America Beautiful, where I work as the PHX Renews project manager.
The PHX Renews project was envisioned by our City of Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, and is about improving the urban landscape of the City of Phoenix through creative temporary vacant land transformation. Its implementation across the Valley is intended to uplift communities in the form of social and artistic spaces, reduced crime, improved health, and increased property values, while simultaneously providing local therapeutic and sustainable food sources for those in need, free education pertaining to food, energy, water and waste, job skills and vocational training, and a catalyst for more permanent, smart and sophisticated development solutions for local business.
The first PHX Renews site sits on a massive 15 acres and is located at one of the busiest intersection in Central Phoenix. In fact, it is the largest vacant land transformation project in the Nation. In November 2012, we began initial discussions with the local community about what they would like to have there temporarily. Planning and design continued through the year until September 2013 when we had our official “Activation Day,” where more than 400 volunteers from the public came out to create agricultural and learning spaces for our 12 partner organizations.
The momentum never stopped. The PHX Renews Central and Indian School site now hosts 17 non-profits, high schools, universities, restaurants, small businesses, and large corporations in addition to seventy community gardens with an ongoing waitlist. It offers a communal space for everyone to interact and learn from one another including refugees, veterans, Native Americans, the LGBTQ community, and their neighbors.
Mayor Stanton and the City of Phoenix have actively supported this project from the beginning by helping us develop the initial infrastructure, but more importantly by working alongside us putting shovel to Earth. To date, a majority of what we have accomplished has been through volunteer work, which is why we’re ecstatic that the Clinton Foundation Day of Action is bringing together more than 600 CGI U students and volunteers to work with us at PHX Renews!
My hope is that every CGI U student who participates in the Day of Action will walk away recognizing the contributions they’ve made, not just to the residents of Phoenix, but to everyone in the world. By continuing the conversation around the importance of service and inspiring people to create their own Commitment to Action, we can all contribute to making the world a better place.