Last month, NSHSS sponsored five travel grants for NSHSS members to attend the ninth CGI U meeting which took place April 1-3, 2016, at the University of California, Berkeley. The meeting, hosted by President Clinton and Chelsea Clinton, brought together more than 1,000 innovative student leaders to make Commitments to Action that address some of the world's most pressing challenges. More than $500,000 in funding was made available to select CGI U 2016 students to help them turn their ideas into action.
15 NSHSS members attended the CGI U meeting this year. Three of the NSHSS travel grant recipients share their stories from the event in this month’s Member Highlight.
I am originally from Pakistan and going to college in the United States. My Commitment to Action - Helping Hands- helps disabled kids in Rawalpindi by connecting them with mentors who help them read and write. These kids are either school dropouts or have never been to school because they cannot afford to pay for school. My commitment has grown as more college volunteers have joined the project. With more volunteers joining the commitment I want to expand the project from one slum in Rawalpindi to other areas within the city.
My favorite speaker was Catlin Powers, co-founder and CEO of One Earth Designs. I loved her idea of trying over and over again because failing does not make one a failure. Rather, trying generates new ideas and understanding of what could be done differently to be successful. She gave an example of when she and the villagers got together to work on a prototype, and it took them 54 different developments to get to the final product.
My favorite memory was to see old and new friends working on amazing projects. Everyone was so energetic and wanted to have an impact on their community. It made me believe that despite what is happening in the world today, there are people who are trying to make things better. I just loved the spirit and enthusiasm of everyone around me.
The most valuable thing I learned from CGI U is never lose faith in yourself and hope in the people around you. I met with students who told me that during their projects they had to change things around to make their project work. I realized both from my experience and from others that change is constant. An example of that is, I met with an attendee who told me she is going to be working on a clean energy project in Nepal. She said she had underestimated her expenses for her project. Instead of giving up on her project, she decided to raise additional funds by participating in the resolution project and as a result won $5000. She just started this project and is only 20 years old. I was inspired by her determination. She told me she is going to Nepal in the summer to carry out the first phase of her project.
CGI U was truly amazing, from the innovative fellow students I had the pleasure of meeting, to all the fascinating speakers we had the privilege of listening to. I feel like one of the most important aspects of the conference, a point that all speakers shared, including President Clinton and Chelsea Clinton, is that change is possible. The betterment of lives around the world is possible; hard work and passion at the core of today's youth and their actions is what will determine how we as the leaders of tomorrow, bring change to the world.
On our day of action, I was very fortunate to get to meet and speak with President Clinton. He came and spoke with a small group of students as we were planting a tree at the Havenscourt Campus in Oakland. He spoke to us about our goals for global change, our career goals, and even about ice cream.
One very exciting moment for me, even though quite simple, was during the closing plenary session when I got to ask a question to the panel, directed towards Conan O'Brien. I submitted a question to the CGI U staff, and mine was chosen along with 5 others. I had the opportunity to ask Mr. O'Brien how he uses his talents and his platform to advocate issues, like those covered at CGI U, to the youth that follow him and his show. And he gave a very detailed answer about his involvement with the youth in America and around the world.
I am second year political science major, and I am currently studying abroad in Sweden. Growing up in a low income family and a community with small resources made me grow an ambition to try and make a difference in the life of others, it is why I have chosen to major in political science. My CGI U commitment grew from a discussion with my corridor mate Nicole Lin in Uppsala, Sweden. The Syrian Refugee crisis was a hot topic in class, media, and in the community. We decided to try and help. Nicole motivated me to apply to CGI U with our commitment to act, which is to continue to bring more awareness globally and with our peers and family. We plan to create an app where Syrian refugees’ stories will be shown with their background, current struggles, and ambitions, future plans, in way that a person can try and donate or keep in contact with that particular person.
My favorite speaker was Congressman John Lewis. His words really inspired me to create change. Some of the words that I can still recall because I wrote them were, “It is our moral obligation to do something.” He went on to say if we are happy with our lives then that means we are not doing our obligation. It was then when I began to think just because my living standard is a little bit better than others it doesn’t mean I should be content. Instead I began to think about the inspiration that grew inside of me to make an impact in the world. He also mentioned how we have failed to teach our generation to never hate or be hostile, instead we should make room for love and peace.
The most valuable thing I learned at CGI U was to not be afraid of failure, and if we find things we are passionate about then we would put all of our power into the project we believe in for it to succeed.