CGI U participants from left Tsion Tesfaye '16, Leonard Kilekwang '16, Sharif Shrestha '17, Emily Moschowits '16 and Andy Chen '16. Aleksandra Bogoevska and Alexandru Hirsu are studying abroad this semester.

Seven Hamilton students have been selected to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) that will take place in April 1-3 at the University of California, Berkeley. Aleksandra Bogoevska ’17, Andy Chen ’16, Leonard Kilekwang ’16, Alexandru Hirsu ’17, Emily Moschowits ’16, Sharif Shrestha ’17 and Tsion Tesfaye ’16 will attend. Shrestha and Tesfaye were among four Hamilton students who participated in last year’s CGI U in Miami.

The CGI U is a subset project of the larger Clinton Global Initiative, a mission begun in 2005 by former President Bill Clinton, which hosts annual meetings of world leaders (heads of state, CEOs, major philanthropists). Each year, CGI U hosts a similar meeting of 1,000+ student leaders, university representatives, and celebrities to discuss and develop innovative ideas to combat current global challenges. Specifically, their work concentrates on five areas: education, environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation and public health.

In order to apply to attend the CGI U meeting, each student or student group must develop and submit a Commitment to Action.  Commitments to Action, a unique feature of the Clinton Global Initiative, translate practical goals into meaningful and measurable results. CGI U commitments address specific challenges across CGI U's five focus areas. Commitments are new, specific, and measurable initiatives that can be small or large, local or global, financial or nonmonetary in nature.

In 2015 Aleksandra Bogoevska ’17, a Levitt Social Innovation fellowstarted a program called Helping Hands, which provides care and support to elderly people living alone in Bitola, Macedonia. This area has a shortage of elderly care facilities, meaning that elderly people who do not live near family may struggle to fulfill their daily needs. Helping Hands sends someone to eight elderly households to help with grocery shopping, take walks and provide company. This year, Bogoevska plans to expand the program to six additional households.  She will also build community connections by meeting with local nonprofit organizations and holding bi-weekly town meetings. Through these meetings, she hopes to develop local partnerships, educate the community about the needs of the elderly, form new ideas to improve the program, and reach out to more elderly people who may need support.

Andy Chen ’16 and Leonard Kilekwang ’16 are planning a Commitment to Action project that will combat preventable disease epidemics in impoverished communities in Kenya. The majority of Kenya’s population owns cell phones, so Chen and Kilekwang will use SMS texts to provide public health information. They plan to begin with a trial run that will send messages to political, cultural, and non-governmental leaders in Chepareria, West Pokot. The messages will provide sanitation lessons aimed to combat water-borne epidemics that are common during Kenya’s wet season. Simultaneously, they will be working to build partnerships with local businesses, organizations, and community leaders in order to make the messages culturally sensitive and eventually include more people in the program. Chen and Kilekwang participated in the Levitt Leadership Institute which has a commitment project requirement.

Alexandru Hirsu ’17, a Levitt Social Innovation fellow, plans to create a leadership academy that will empower high school students in Romania and create cooperation between two divided ethnic groups. In Romania, the minority Romani people are subject to segregation, poor health, and lower education levels. Hirsu’s academy, Young Leaders for Diverse Romania, will include equal numbers of Romani and Romanian participants. Together, these students will learn about effective communication, leadership, conflict management, and diversity. The goal of the program is to create understanding between the different ethnic groups and to empower the students as leaders. At the end of the academy session, the participants will design commitment projects to create positive change in their communities.

Emily Moschowits ’16 is planning to start an organization that will provide low-income Utica residents with greater access to fresh, local produce and educate them about farming and local foods. Her organization will work with existing urban gardens around Utica to improve maintenance, distribution, and educational programs. She also plans to work with the Department of Health to create new urban gardens, specifically hydroponics or indoor vertical farms that will provide fresh produce year-round. Moschowits was a Levitt Social Innovation fellow and participated in the Levitt Leadership Institute.

Last summer, Sharif Shrestha ’17 used a Social Innovation Fellowship to create Herbs for Change, an initiative to alleviate poverty and reduce gender inequality in two rural villages in Nepal by creating a cooperative herb farm. In 2015 Shrestha and his team built two nurseries to grow Swetia, a medicinal herb, and employed 23 villagers, including 13 women. So far, the farm has increased these villagers’ average income by 75%. This income will increase further following the farm’s first harvest in May.  Furthermore, some of the harvest revenue will be invested in local schools being built by United World Schools. The Herbs for Change team plans to construct at least four more nurseries. They plan to use the CGIU network in order to crowd-fund their project’s growth and to form partnerships with similar initiatives. They hope this will enable them to expand their impact and make Herbs for Change independently sustainable.

In 2014, Tsion Tesfaye ’16 used a Levitt Social Innovation Fellowship to start an academic and leadership program called Youth for Ethiopia (YFE) for high school students in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Tesfaye designed and implemented a six-week program that provides SAT preparation, college application coaching, and an introduction to social innovation. The program encourages students to view Ethiopia’s entrenched social problems as opportunities for fulfilling work in social change. In its first year, 15 students participated in the program. As their final project, they created student clubs that continue to have an impact in their schools. In 2015, Tesfaye expanded the program to include 37 students from 3 different schools.  She also updated the curriculum to focus on preparation for the Ethiopian national exam, meetings with local leaders, volunteering, leadership training, and developing plans for student clubs. This year, Tesfaye plans to expand YFE to even more schools and train 60 students. The participants will go through intense training in leadership skills, service learning, and social innovation. In the future, Tesfaye hopes to make YFE a nationwide program and found Youth for Ethiopia Academy, an independent school dedicated to training transformational leaders.

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