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Clinton Foundation and Verizon announce $350,000 in grants to student projects that are using technology to improve lives

Leadership & Public Service | 13 Minute Read

For Immediate Release: May 19, 2021


Clinton Foundation and Verizon announce $350,000 in grants to student projects that are using technology to improve lives

The 2021 Verizon and CGIU Social Innovation Challenge awards grants to students who are developing innovative technology-based solutions to address significant societal challenges

New York, NY – Today, the Clinton Foundation and Verizon announced the winners of the 2021 Verizon and CGI U Social Innovation Challenge, providing $350,000 to current undergraduate and graduate students, as well as Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) alumni. Grant funding was given to 14 winning teams, composed of 37 individuals, to develop leading-edge technology-based solutions—including those leveraging the power of 5G—to address significant societal challenges related to education, health, and climate justice. Student and alumni projects include agricultural data tools that enable farmers to make informed decisions and increase their climate resilience, a virtual reality experience that brings language learning to life, and an AI-based solution for maternal health care in under-resourced communities.

Through this Social Innovation Challenge, CGI U and Verizon are supporting a diverse community of student innovators and entrepreneurs. This year’s challenge winners come from a wide range of cultural backgrounds, including Asian, African, Hispanic or Latino, Black or African American, Middle Eastern, and American Indian or Alaskan Native, and represent two Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

“I’m so impressed and inspired by the incredible participation and creativity shown in this Social Innovation Challenge,” said Chelsea Clinton, Clinton Foundation Vice Chair. “We’re proud to partner with Verizon and VentureWell to support these young leaders as they launch projects to improve education and health, and toward climate justice around the world — and their work makes me optimistic for our future.”

This collaboration is part of CGI U’s commitment to provide student leaders and innovators with funding, mentorship, training, and networking opportunities throughout the year. It also highlights Verizon’s commitment to support the development of technology-based solutions for social change. This partnership with CGI U is part of Citizen Verizon, Verizon’s responsible business plan for economic, environmental, and social advancement.

The 14 winning teams  represent 23 institutions of higher education, including 4 members of the CGI University Network:

  • CGI U ’13 alum Melissa Diamond, Omar Kittani of Al-Quds Open University, and Sama Kittani of Birzeit University – A Global Voice for Autism
  • CGI U ’17 alum Adriano de Bernardi Schneider of the University of California, San Diego and CGI U ’17 alum Sam WarachNextStep LLC
  • CGI U ’17 alum Esias Bedingar of Harvard University, Tinotenda Kuretu of Dartmouth College, and Wadzanai Ndambakuwa of Cottey College – Macaw
  • CGI U ’18 alum Odubola Oluwatimilehin and CGI U ’20 alum Tracy-Ann HymanARTEL
  • CGI U ’18 alum Priyanka Patel, CGI U ’20 alum Khushi Patel, and Kimberlee Sibilia of Rutgers University – Merakhi
  • Cedric Clyburn of North Carolina State University, Manasa Chinta of North Carolina State University, and Nga Nguyen of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – LiRA, Inc.
  • Longsha Liu, Julia Isakov, and Kristen Ong of Cornell University – Vita Innovations
  • Alex Xu, Franklin Boampong, and Samarth Lamba of Duke University – Peek AR
  • Daniel Villanueva of Humboldt State University, Jason Gonzalez of Oregon State University, and Kevin Villanueva of the University of California, Santa Barbara – Squawk
  • Dakshesh Daruri of the University of Michigan and Danielle Boyer of the University of Vermont – The STEAM Connection
  • Anthony Dohman and Brittany Stewart of Howard University – Kazi!Kazi!
  • Abel Mkulama and Oasys Okubo of the University of California, Santa Cruz – SANKOFA_precision
  • Hoang Tao of the University of New Orleans, Shifat Mithila of Louisiana State University, and Trung Vu of the University of California, Los Angeles – SISYPHUS Global Systems
  • Brittney Booker, Jessica Perez, and Katerra Stamps of Prairie View A&M University – Panthers Who Byte

In addition to the grants, winning teams are invited to participate in a hands-on entrepreneurial training program from startup accelerator partner VentureWell. Participants will develop a nuanced understanding of the particular need being addressed, identify gaps in the approaches currently deployed, build and enhance the technical aspects of the solution, and create a viable and sustainable business model. This opportunity includes membership in the VentureWell E-Team program and access to E-Team alumni programming and networking opportunities. Teams will have the opportunity to pitch their solutions at the end of the program to win an additional $20K each in seed funding and sponsorship in continued programming with VentureWell.

Launched in 2007, CGI U brings together students from around the globe annually to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges through “Commitments to Action” – new, specific, and measurable initiatives to improve education, environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation, and public health. Through the CGI U program, students develop innovative solutions to these challenges through peer networking, skills training, funding opportunities, and personalized mentorship with experts across business, philanthropy, government, and more. With a network of 10,000 alumni from more than 1,100 schools, 160 countries, and all 50 states, CGI U students have made more than 7,000 Commitments to Action.

This announcement follows the 13th annual CGI U virtual meeting, hosted in partnership with Howard University. The meeting brought together students from around the world for discussions about restoring faith in democracy, environmental justice, COVID-19 recovery, and creating systemic change. The program included conversations with Vice President Kamala Harris, Mayor Muriel Bowser, Stacey Abrams, and Wes Moore. Watch this year’s meeting here:

The CGI U Class of 2021 has already developed more than 400 Commitments to Action to address a wide range of issues, including the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, systemic racism and social justice, food insecurity, and other pressing global issues.


About Verizon

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE, Nasdaq: VZ) was formed on June 30, 2000 and is one of the world’s leading providers of technology, communications, information and entertainment products and services. Headquartered in New York City and with a presence around the world, Verizon generated revenues of $128.3 billion in 2020. The company offers data, video and voice services and solutions on its award-winning networks and platforms, delivering on customers’ demand for mobility, reliable network connectivity, security and control.

About Citizen Verizon

Citizen Verizon is the company’s responsible business plan for economic, environmental and social advancement. Citizen Verizon empowers Verizon to deliver on its mission to move the world forward through action by expanding digital access and resources, protecting the climate, and ensuring people have the skills needed for jobs of the future. Through Citizen Verizon, and the key pillars of Digital Inclusion, Climate Protection and Human Prosperity, the company is committed to providing 10 million youths with digital skills training by 2030, supporting 1 million small businesses with resources to help them thrive in the digital economy by 2030, achieving carbon neutrality in its operations by 2035, and preparing 500,000 individuals for jobs of the future by 2030. Learn more at

About VentureWell

At VentureWell, we envision a world in which science and technology innovators have the support, training, and access to networks and resources they need to solve the world’s most difficult problems. We foster collaboration among the best minds from research labs, classrooms, and beyond to advance innovation and entrepreneurship education and to provide unique opportunities for STEM students and researchers to fully realize their potential to improve the world.

Founded with support from The Lemelson Foundation, we also receive substantial funding from the National Science Foundation, the United States Department of State, the United States Agency for International Development, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and many others. Our success illustrates the result of more than two decades of forward-thinking programming to build a vibrant innovation and entrepreneurship community in support of innovators globally.

Over the past 25 years, we’ve trained more than 3,000 early-stage innovation teams and helped launch over 850 ventures that have raised close to $1billion in public and private investments. These ventures have reached millions of people in over 50 countries with technological advancements in fields such as biotechnology, healthcare, sustainable energy and materials, and solutions for low-resource settings. Learn more at

About the Clinton Foundation

Building on a lifetime of public service, President Clinton established the Clinton Foundation on the simple belief that everyone deserves a chance to succeed, everyone has a responsibility to act, and we all do better when we work together. For nearly two decades, those values have energized the work of the Foundation in overcoming complex challenges and improving the lives of people across the United States and around the world.

As an operating foundation, we work on issues directly or with strategic partners from the business, government, and nonprofit sectors to create economic opportunity, improve public health, and inspire civic engagement and service. Our programs are designed to make a real difference today while serving as proven models for tomorrow. The goal of every effort is to use available resources to get better results faster – at the lowest possible cost.

We firmly believe that when diverse groups of people bring resources together in the spirit of true cooperation, transformative ideas will emerge to drive life-changing action. Learn more at, on Facebook at, and on Twitter @ClintonFdn.