Clinton Global Initiative University 2014

I get it—our generation has its flaws. I just read yet another article about how we’re up to our old tricks again, what with our incessant texting and tweeting. Yes, we were the generation with an undying love for boy bands and grew up to thumb away on our smartphones, but we’re also trying to change the world. Where does one find a young person making a difference, you ask? You might try the Clinton Global Initiative University. CGI U is completely recasting the distressing portrait of today’s youth from estranged and neurotic to upbeat and intelligent. We’re a stubborn bunch. Call us what you want – Generation Me, Millennials, Generation Y – it doesn’t change that fact that we’re rebelling against cultural ennui by going out and getting things done.

SMU students at CGI U 2014

SMU students at CGI U 2014

Last weekend, I had the opportunity of attending the seventh annual CGI University meeting with over 1,000 students from all 50 states and over 80 countries. CGI U, an initiative of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, is devoted to inspiring the next generation of leaders to tackle global challenges. The goal of CGI U is not just to discuss issues at hand, but rather to make specific Commitments to Action to address pressing challenges faced all over the world. CGI U unites students and challenges them to take on these global problems through innovation and collaboration. “We’re the generation that has volunteered most in history — even more than my parent’s generation,” said Chelsea Clinton in the opening session.

I was one of six SMU students that travelled to Arizona State University to take part in CGI U 2014. My commitment, which falls under the Peace and Human Rights focus area, involves The Nari Project. Nari kits, which are transitional crisis kits, provide battered women with basic necessities as they transition from critical situations to a secure environment. The kits, which have been implemented in Dallas, Texas and Comilla, Bangladesh, include items such as food, clothing, gift cards, a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as other items. This year, I have committed to complete the last stage of research for The Nari Project by engaging in scholarly research to determine the psychological and physiological efficacy of the kits. Using this research, I will conduct seminars to spread awareness about domestic violence, and scale up the Nari initiative.

With over 1000 of the brightest minds in attendance, the weekend was an unparalleled amalgamation of innovation and stimulation. The conference, which was held at Arizona State University in Tempe, examined issues such as environment and climate change, education, peace and human rights, public health and poverty alleviation. The meeting featured a cast list brimming with prominent speakers by the likes of Gabrielle Giffords, Jimmy Wales, Reeta Roy and Jimmy Kimmel.

While I attended last year’s CGI U Meeting in St. Louis, I was admittedly overwhelmed by the sheer evolution of the student commitments. This year surpassed my expectations yet again, as I met a host of likeminded and unwavering students that are taking concrete steps to confront global issues. Whether it was another student appreciating the work I put into my project, or someone that was interested in working with Nari, I came away from the weekend with numerous valuable contacts.

“First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight with you. Then you win,” said Barefoot College’s Bunker Roy at one of the sessions, quoting Gandhi. CGI U has provided me with a sense of self-actualization that has helped me better realize my place in the world.

Kids these days.

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