SERC Sponsorship: The Clinton Global Initiative

When I first stepped foot on the University of Chicago campus a few weeks ago, I had no idea what to expect. The contrasting biting chill of October in the Midwest caught me off-guard, but nothing could quell my excitement about being selected as one of 1,000 other students from across the globe to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University conference. I had been waiting for this moment since I received my acceptance email and could not believe that the moment had finally arrived.

I met with students from not only across the United States, but across the world as well. These students were all intensely focused and driven to accomplish their goals and make the world a better place for future generations. I met someone who was working with the government in the Philippines to promote and implement more sustainable agricultural irrigation practices. Another was working on micro-financing water filters in Haiti. There was even a student working to bridge the partisan gap on college campuses by facilitating dialogue between the many campus political parties across the nation. It was exciting to see young people taking action and being successful in tackling such pressing issues.

Beyond meeting some inspiring young people at this conference, those who spoke during plenary sessions were amazing to hear from. It was absolutely incredible to have the opportunity to listen to Chelsea, Hillary, and Bill Clinton speak at the conference.  There was no shortage of praise for upcoming generations and they spoke at length about how optimistic they were about the future because of young people. There were also multiple panels discussing pressing issues such as free speech, gun violence, and civic engagement. It was a privilege to hear from people who had such personal experiences with the issues they were talking about, like a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida and a community organizer fighting for free speech in Nicaragua.

We also had the opportunity to gain insight from workshops led by experts in their field, imparting valuable advice and wisdom. I attended a workshop about increasing organizational capacity as well as one about youth incarceration. There were speakers who had started their own non-profits as well as from prestigious organizations like the Obama Foundation. They imparted valuable yet some unexpected advice when starting up an initiative, like how to utilize previous volunteers to lead future operations and expand your initiative further. However, they cautioned that you also have to be aware of when to say no and slow down the growth of your organization.

What was truly remarkable was the fact that these young people, most in their early twenties, were taking action on problems that are often put off to “someday” for young people. The action that these people and many others are taking has proven that the ideas of younger generations should not necessarily be relegated to a secondary role.

Without the SERC Travel Grant, I would not have been able to attend this life-changing conference. I plan to further my involvement with this initiative by applying to become a CGI U Campus Ambassador in Spring of 2019 and then attend CGI U 2019. If you have an idea for a project to address a pressing local or global issue, consider applying to attend CGI U 2019 this Spring!

Melina Webb is a sophomore majoring in Environmental Economics and Policy. Outside of class, she is currently involved with the Berkeley Student Food Collective and the Student Kitchen Co. at UC Berkeley. 

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