Undergraduates Melanie Rodriguez, Amelia Raudales, Emelie Jimenez, Sophia Jaimes and Patricia Garcia have been recognized by the Clinton Global Initiative U (CGI U) for their ideas on how to improve life for people both locally and around the world.
Founded in 2007 by President Bill Clinton, CGI U is a part of the Clinton Foundation and seeks to engage students at college campuses globally. The program supports people who have new projects that can benefit humanity with leadership training, networking, mentoring and funding opportunities.
Students at CGI U conduct their work in a number of fields, like the environment, public health and poverty alleviation.
For students such as freshman Sophia Jaimes, the program is an opportunity to transform passion into real action. The international relations major is looking to make college readiness easier.
“There are people at public schools who [grew up] like me. They don’t have access to practicing SATs. They don’t know they have waivers available to them,” Jaimes says. “So my project is to help them apply, take the test and give them a better chance of getting into higher education debt-free.”
Each CGI U awardee is assigned a ‘Commitment to Action’ mentor, who works with students one-on-one to help them advance their projects. Mentors are assigned based on what each person specifically needs help with over the course of the year-long program.
Students will also receive access to networking events and CGI U's Commitment to Action curriculum, which teaches best practices for managing social impact projects. Additionally, participants will be presented with multiple opportunities to secure funding for their projects throughout the year.
Some students are coming in with projects that are ongoing. Junior Melanie Rodriguez, an education major, is running an initiative that addresses social justice through art-based experiences like movie screenings and discussions.
"As a Millennium Fellow in 2019, I did some research and found an issue I wanted to address, which was the school to prison pipeline," Rodriguez says. "Not a lot of people knew about it or how it affected Miami."
"With the support of CGI U, I’m excited to add more events and possibly establish a team."
The FIU awardees happen to all be female. They are also all students from Global Learning, a university program that educates Panthers on how to tackle intercultural, international issues.
"Students learn three really important skills in Global Learning," says Hilary Landorf, executive director of the Office of Global Learning Initiatives. "One is that things ramify, that issues are interconnected throughout the world. Students also learn to examine issues from multiple perspectives. And finally, they learn how to turn that knowledge and skill into tangible actions that benefit diverse populations in their communities."
Homelessness is one of these problems, and junior Emelie Jimenez has an idea to fight it. She is conducting research on homelessness in Miami-Dade leading up to CGI U programming; and with support from the foundation, she hopes to create a small neighborhood of bubble huts/igloo tents for people living on the streets.
This location, she hopes, would be a way to get medical professionals in front of homeless people.
“What I’ve found throughout my data, especially by interviewing [homeless people], is that a lot of the time they want to stay homeless. They have a problem trusting shelters. So they would rather stay on the streets. With this project, we would try to mend that trust factor and give them a community base,” Jimenez says.
The students are set to join their fellow award winners from all around the country in a virtual event on March 23-26 to kick off this year’s CGI U programming.