Tsion Tesfaye '16
Tsion Tesfaye '16

Officials at the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) have recently selected Tsion Tesfaye ’16 to attend their annual meeting in recognition of her innovative project Youth for Ethiopia.

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.

Tesfaye, an international student from Ethiopia, applied to CGI U two months ago, after a summer leading her social service project. In light of the debilitating academic state of her country, she said she “really, really wanted to do something” to provide her peers back home with leadership opportunities and social innovation skills to succeed. “Problems are not just problems,” Tesfaye said. “They are opportunities for growth.”

A Levitt Social Innovation Fellow, Tesfaye came up with the idea for Youth for Ethiopia at Hamilton’s Social Innovation Workshop last spring break. She received project support and complete funding from the Levitt Center. Professor of Economics and Director of the Arthur Levitt Public Affairs Center Julio Videras and Assistant Professor of Economics Emily Conover are among Tesfaye's mentors, particularly in helping her design assessment measures.

Youth for Ethiopia came to fruition this past summer as a four-week leadership and social innovation training program. Comprising 15 students from the Ethio Parents School in Addis Ababa, the project consists of three courses: leadership, social innovation, and SAT training, taught by Tesfaye and three of her former teachers.

“Our goal is to nurture exemplary Ethiopian leaders,” Tesfaye explained, “…to make the best of every single student that we have.” She says she used the skills and materials she acquired at Hamilton—particularly through the Levitt Leadership Institute—in teaching her courses.

Tesfaye is very serious about this project, and believes strongly in its ability to help students understand and see themselves as leaders, while fostering the social innovation skills necessary to help them implement their creative ideas. “We want to continue it as a summer project [next year] and expand to another school,” Tesfaye noted. “Eventually, we’d like to increase the number of students we have…nation-wide…and after raising funds, make it into a school of its own.”

Tesfaye is a graduate of the African Leadership Academy in South Africa. She hopes to study abroad next semester in Copenhagen, Denmark, and fly back for the CGI U meeting at the University of Miami, March 6-8. It will be hosted by former President Bill Clinton and his daughter Chelsea.

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