Dreaming with first-generation students

By Sergio Ignacio Arce

The journey to CGI U started with my involvement with the Dream Project in which I served as mentor. In this project I saw the importance of mentorship in transition period for a student. I saw how senior high school students were taking a big step forward into college and were benefiting from guidance. My experience as college student had me thinking about the other big step these students must take out of college. However, I saw there is no much personal assistance or mentorship to college student looking to take the bigger step out of college or finishing college.

I decided to create a platform, Juvenis Imaginators, that brings together mentors and first generation college students to solve the lack of tailored mentorship offered at the college level. My initial thought was to work in conjunction with my university to build on the platform. However, after the conference, I decided to take a different path and reshape my platform. The idea remains to assist first generation college students. Yet, to focus on first generation community college students, I am thinking on running a pilot program located across three different locations. The first one in a community college border-town like El Paso, TX; the second one in a rural Midwest community college; and the third location in an inner-city community college on the East Coast.

There are a lot of steps I must take in order to start to build this platform. My number one strategy is cooperation and partnerships with other students, NGOs, and community centers. I must do a lot more research in order to start compiling a robust design for this platform. The challenges is been setting up the partnerships to continue on. I am very excited about the prospects of this reformed idea and I will continue to work diligently to produce something coherently solid that will strive to help first generation students. I want to thank Melanie Fedri, The Clinton Global Initiate University, The George Washington University, and all those people that made possible the wonderful and enriching experience that the conference was. Overall, it was fountain of inspiration to go on and empower others to change the world.

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Healthy & Sustainable Food Availability Index

March 21, 2015

By Katie Merritt

I’d like to reflect on the importance of early community involvement in Commitments to Action.

Having a public health background, the Globalization of Chronic Disease working session on Saturday caught my attention at the CGI U conference. The discussion with Thuy Yu, Doyin Oluwole, Phil Southerland, and Sonya Shin inspired reflections about my commitment to characterize food access inequity in the District. Sonya Shin had moved to Arizona to address chronic disease via food access within the Najavo Nation and empower the community to be independent and gain their own food sovereignty. Fixing a biological problem such as chronic diseases with social or behavioral solutions is a common strategy among public health interventions. It is key in addressing food access inequities.

Dr. Shin’s story reminded me of Community-Based Participatory Research, a type of epidemiology that partners with communities during the design phase of the study. These studies build trust between the community and researchers as they share a similar mission, are transparent with their results, and leverage shared resources. Speaking to Dr. Shin following the session she recommended religious sites as a portal to approach communities and build relationships. Characterizing a baseline of sustainable food access within a District will just be a first step before interventions can measure change in food access. As my partners and I prepare to start our data collection this spring, it has become clear to me the importance of involving the communities of Wards 5, 7, and 8 as we expand our pilot and consider next steps for a complete assessment. For instance, what information is this population interested in knowing that can help them make healthier consumer choices given the access in their neighborhood? In closing I would like to share a phrase that summarizes this observation as advice to fellow commitment makers interested in making change in a community other than their own: “If the problem is in the community, the solution is in the community.”

Project Phoenix

March 20, 2015

By Whitney Tallarico

For my CGI U commitment, I set out to reduce the rate of youth recidivism into prison by providing a holistic reentry program that provides housing, employment, and mentorship. The goal was to have a café on the main floor of a building with independent housing units above. Each resident employee would have to go through an application process that would help us pair him or her up with a mentor in the community. The café would be called “Café Phoenix”. While I learned a lot about the process of starting a business, connecting with existing platforms for reentry, and finding out what resources the DC government had to offer through grants, I also realized that I do not want to be a business owner. I’m not cut out to be in one place for 3+ years. What I think I could offer with the seed funding that might be more helpful and sustainable as a CGI U commitment will be to connect existing organizations that focus on reentry. I would like to host an event to bring various players from the private, public, and nonprofit sectors together with those who have successfully transitioned from prison in order to design better resources for those who are preparing to leave prison.

One of the moments when I realized that my commitment could be better if it were aimed at connecting people rather than creating a venue was when I met some people at CGI U who were equally interested in focusing on job training and recidivism prevention. There are several brilliant, enthusiastic, and savvy people who want to make this issue a focus for their lives. Back in DC and through my research, I have found countless organizations that employ, promote, empower, and educate people as they leave prison. If we can all work together to compile individual services into something that can be scaled up, the result will be greater than the sum of the parts. I agree with many of the brilliant CGI U speakers that each person should stand up for what they believe in, and I feel that my job is to make sure people are standing together and working hand and hand. One of the most common themes from the whole conference was that the bridge to any gap was possible through human interaction. Therefore, connecting people is the first step in global development. I am grateful to have been a participant at CGI U, and I hope that the point of view I shared will help some of the other people I met as much as they helped me.

Juvenis Imaginators

March 20, 2015

By Sergio Ignacio Arce

The journey to CGI U started with my involvement with the Dream project in which I served as mentor. In this project I saw the importance of mentorship in transition period for a student. I saw how senior high school students were taking a big step forward into college and were benefiting from guidance. My experience as college student had me thinking about the other big step these students must take out of college. However, I saw there is no much personal assistance or mentorship to college student looking to take the bigger step out of college or finishing college.

I decided to create a platform that brought together mentors and first generation college students to solve the lack of tailored mentorship offered at college level. My initial thought was to work in conjunction with my university to build on the platform. However, after the conference I decided to take a different path and reshape my platform. The idea remains to assist first generation college students. Yet, I thought to focus on first generation community college students. I am thinking on running a pilot program located across three different locations. The first one is in border town community college such as El Paso TX, the second one is rural Midwest community college, and the third location is an inner city community college in the East Coast.

There are a lot of steps I must take in order to start to build this platform. My number one strategy is cooperation and partnerships with other students, NGOs, and community centers. I must do a lot more research in order to start compiling a robust design for this platform. The challenges is been setting up the partnerships to continue on. I am very excited about the prospects of this reformed idea and I will continue to work diligently to produce something coherently solid that will strive to help first generation students. I want to thank Melanie Fedri, The Clinton Global Initiate University, The George Washington University, and all those people that made possible the wonderful and enriching experience that the conference was. Overall, it was fountain of inspiration to go on and empower others to change the world.

Healthy & Sustainable Food Availability Index

March 20, 2015

By Johanna Podrasky

Vision. Inspiration. Drive. These are just a few words that describe the speakers and attendees I interacted with at the Clinton Global Initiative University conference. There was a breadth of great ideas to solve problems, many of which have common ties. This brings to light the importance of communicating ideas and vision to one another in order to be effective in solving problems together. The sessions throughout the conference helped bring together individuals with shared interests to spur discussion.

A valuable panel discussed monitoring and evaluating your results, which brought conceptual and real world examples to light. It highlighted that evaluation is not only important during and after an intervention, but establishing an accurate and meaningful baseline is also vital beforehand. This framework underlines the importance of the Healthy & Sustainable Food Availability Index commitment. This project will provide information about the current foods available in Washington, D.C. to provide baseline information that can be used for targeted interventions in the future. One challenge in the process of establishing a baseline is ensuring consistency and reliability in data collection. Since food systems have been similarly evaluated in Baltimore and forthcoming in Montgomery County, Maryland, this provides a template for evaluation techniques.

During a panel on urban green spaces, I was struck by Roger Horne’s thoughts – stating that if we’re solving problems right, we should be working ourselves out of a job. Too often organizations base their vision on the status quo or on what funding has been used for in the past. It’s important to instead be forward thinkers and chart new vision to solve challenging problems. Being out of a job means a job well done – and greater opportunities for inspiration and change to come.

GRID takes the stage at CGI U!

By Mariam Adil, March 20, 2015

Disclaimer: This blogpost contains excessive use of superlatives. It is not meant for the weak-hearted!

CGI U 2014 vs CGI U 2015:  CGI U 2014 was great, but CGI U 2015 was just AMAZING. The “game-changer” being the opportunity to share the stage with none other but President Clinton himself, to talk about my passion for video games as development solutions, in front of an audience of 1000 students.  Top it off with having our game “StereoWiped” launched on the App Store the same day (with GW Commitment Maker Challenge financing) and getting some awesome press coverage and you have all the ingredients for a commitment maker’s dream weekend.

CGI U Average Student vs CGI U GW student: Being at CGI U rocks, but being a GW student at CGI U is downright superb! Belonging to the largest group of university students and having a cool mentor/university rep rooting for you makes for an amazing experience. Want more? How about the fact, that thanks to some awesome fundraising by GWupstart, I didn’t have to pay a penny for my flights.

Randomania vs StereoWiped: GRID’s first game Randomania was awesome, but our second game StereoWiped is our favourite child. Our CGI U 2015 commitment puts up on track to taking on conflict-provoking stereotypes and breaking them in a fun and engaging way with different versions of StereoWiped.  The game works as a simple memory game, requiring players to “match” tiles of stereotypes and then breaks them with thought-provoking statistics. “I am a girl… I like pink” or “I am African …. I have AIDS”. With each stereotype matched, the player receives  “food for thought” that breaks the stereotype e.g: “2 out of 3 girls around you prefer blue more than pink” or “Only 5% of the adults in Sub-Saharan Africa have AIDs”. We are excited about taking the game to low-income students in neighborhoods in DC with our new partners FLOC – For Love of Children and fighting social constructs that alienate people and undermine cultural diversity. (Insider news: GRID is also working on some cool new projects, think environmental justice, sanitation and hygiene and Early Childhood Development, follow us on twitter @games_grid to stay tuned).

Project Dream Miles

yeshwant-clinton

March 19, 2015

My name is Yeshwant Chillakuru, and I am the co-founder of Project Dream Miles (PDM). PDM’s other co-founder is Kyle Lennon, a student at the University of Delaware and a friend of nearly 5 years. We are a nonprofit organization based on a mobile app that uses running to raise funds and awareness for local at-risk students. Using our mobile app, you can track you runs and get detailed stats on your run. Also, for every mile logged on the app, our sponsors, who in return get marketing outreach to a highly relevant user group, donate towards a local charity that mentors students. We have developed a business plan as a foundation and have created a partnership with a local organization called Teens Run DC that uses running to mentor students. We are currently working to prototype the application’s user interface and reaching out to developers to prepare for the app dev process. One of the major hurdles we face is finding a sponsor, since we are at the early stages of app development, but we seek to gain track interest of our target audience through a website, which we hope to launch soon (pdm.io), to prove to sponsors that they can gain a return on investment.

The experience at CGI U was unreal. Despite almost missing my flight, not because of weather, but because of the metro, I got to the conference on time to present for the Resolution Project in the semifinalist round at a science fair-style poster display. PDM moved on to the finalist round, presenting to a judges panel early the next day, Saturday, in the morning. Despite getting grilled on financials, and feelings somewhat iffy, PDM was recognized as one of the 23 teams that won the Resolution Project, from an initial 191 submissions. I am extremely excited to become a Resolution Fellow. The seed investment ($5k) and, more importantly, the access to a huge community and network will allow PDM to accelerate its growth.

Other than the Resolution Project, I learned of many amazing projects being carried out by even more amazing individuals. The networking opportunity was great, and I heard so many stories about people doing amazing things. I even discovered that one friend I made there may be interning in DC over the summer, and another Resolution Fellow will be interning in DC starting mid-March. GW’s location in DC allows you to truly cement some of the connections you form.

Additionally, the speakers were amazing. Two of my favorite were Vivek Murthy, Surgeon General of the United States, and Tawakkol Karman, humans rights activist that lead “Women Journalists Without Chains” and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011. Vivek Murthy was extremely eloquent and structured his stories so well that you felt as if you could follow his footsteps, while Tawakkol Karman showed her passion on the CGI U stage for her work. Both speakers were inspiring to say the least.

See Yesh’s profile on The Resolution Project‘s site, and visit Project Dream Miles’website!

Asepsis gets feedback at CGI U

March 19, 2015

By Maz Obuz

Going into the CGI U conference the team of Project Dharavi: Redefining Waste (now known as Asepsis) had no idea what to expect. Now, two weeks later we cannot express how amazing an opportunity it was. While at the conference our team participated in both the Resolution Project and was an Exhibitor on the final day. Through both experiences we were able to receive key feedback which has allowed us to strengthen our CGI U Commitment. Being able to talk candidly with established individuals in the development field has allowed us to further understand the numerous anthropological aspects behind what we do. We now have a better understanding of how to best aid those whom we aim to provide our sanitation services.

In addition, CGI U proved to be an incredible networking opportunity. Each and every commitment was extremely impressive and being able to trade ideas with one another was very valuable. Even now we are in contact with a number of Commitment Makers focused on improving everyday lives in the Mumbai region. In addition we have been emailing back and forth with a number of projects focused on health and sanitation issues.

As we continue, we look forward to keeping in contact with everyone we’ve met! The larger the network we create the better chance that Project Dharavi will be able to successfully carry out its mission of providing clean sanitation to those in need around the world.

Check out more about Maz and Even’s work at Asepsis.org

Raising awareness of counterfeit drugs

By Vivian Berni

Background: There is no guarantee that medicinal products bought online are effective, authentic or even safe. Their quality is questionable as they may contain the wrong amount of active ingredients or no active ingredients at all. In all circumstances, counterfeit medicines are manufactured secretly with no quality assurance under the most deplorable conditions. The criminals manufacturing counterfeit medicines may use any chemical or material that will help them imitate the look, texture, and taste of a generic or branded product. As a result, fake medicines can cause harm to patients and sometimes even lead to death.

Patients shopping online are especially susceptible to purchasing their prescription drugs from generic, questionable sources in their hope of saving money while meeting their health needs. To take on this large-scale challenge, Stay Safe Pharma will focus on assisting low and middle income patients, including college students, residing in South Florida to become aware of the danger of counterfeit drugs and the risks associated with online medicine purchases.

Birth of an Idea: Stay Safe Pharma originates from my experience working in supply chain within the Life Sciences and Health Care sector. Having attended conferences on security, supply chain integrity, and good distribution practice, you learn about the complexities involved in getting patients access to safe medicines. One day I was emptying out my spam email; I recall receiving a message that prompted me to purchase medicines at discounted rates. The website was odd. No contact details or phone provided. The website even claimed no prescription was necessary. What was happening here? That’s when I realized how easy it was for anyone to be lured into buying cheap, unregulated medications online.

Steps Taken: As a GWU graduate student in Public Health, I’ve completed a course in Social and Behavioral Approaches to Health. As my final project, I successfully developed a Stay Safe Pharma intervention utilizing a logic model and it’s respective constructs. This will be providing me with a fantastic foundation to carry out my commitment to action.

Next Steps: Start seeking out partners to support my initiative!

CGI U Experience: As a University of Miami Alumni, it was a wonderful experience to revisit my Alma Matter, and what better way than through the Clinton Global Initiative University. The energy was vibrant, students from across the globe representing different nationalities and ideas. It was contagious. I am fortunate to have been able to represent George Washington University.

CGI U Highlights: Meeting Donna Shalala, President of the University of Miami, once again as an alumni. Being present during Han Rosling’s the Power of Big Data, ‘‘If you do not know the present, you cannot think about the future.’’ Hearing from experts about ‘‘The Future of Energy,’’ concept of interconnected environment. Networking with students and learning about what inspires and motivates them.

Work clothes beyond the pinstripe suit

By Melinda Hasbrouck

My commitment, Clothing for Everyone’s Success (CES), is a clothing drive that will collect alternative work clothes. Clothing drives focused on work clothes usually have donations of clothes a person wears in an office setting. People who need donated clothing work wear are not usually hired for office clothing settings. Many individuals are obtaining employment and providing food handling, janitorial and home aide services. These jobs tend to require a uniform (e.g., chef pants, oxford shirts, khakis, scrubs). In the Washington Metropolitan area, job training programs offer clothes from their clothes closets, but do not carry the clothes needed for a person to start service jobs that require a uniform (as described above).

I was inspired by this project from my own experiences of offering new hires positions in restaurants. Some people had to turn down the work because they did not have the clothing required to start work and did not have the money to buy the required clothes. My project targets poverty alleviation. I have created a partnership with Bread for the City to accept the donated items and maintain a clothing line separate for their employment program. I am very excited by this partnership because my family, friends and I have used their services in the past. I have applied for a Public Health Services Grant to help launch the initiative. This project does not require a lot of financial investment and I look forward to motivating individuals to volunteer for this program when we go live.