I had the opportunity to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) Conference in Miami. This conference was launched by President Clinton in 2007 to engage the next generation of leaders on college campuses around the world. This year I was humbled to be one of 70 non-profit representatives working with youth to be invited to attend the conference, along with 100 university deans, and 1300 university student leaders from around the world.
During this 2-day conference, I had a chance to interact with 100s of peopleâ€“all brought together Â by the common desire to make a sustainable positive impact on the community. The conference included an A-list guestlist including President Clinton to stars like Heather Graham and Pharrell to organizations like Lend for Peace who are using microcredit to help the people in need in the troubled West Bank. However, despite this amazing list of people and organizations in attendance, what inspired me most was meeting the university students and hearing their stories and dreams for change. I was particularly moved by a college freshman I met who I learned became an orphan while she was in high school. She was also pregnant when she became an orphan. Given all her adversity, it would have been so easy for her to give up on education; instead, she found the courage to give birth to her baby and then, to leave her surroundings in Chicago and head south where she is now getting a degree while raising her child.
This was just one of many inspiring stories from the youth I heard during CGIU and I can honestly say that the future is in good hands. Overall, I was very impressed by the students at the conference, and also by how the organizers were able to put together the conference. CGIU managed to bring together people from varied backgrounds and give them a forum to exchange ideas and best practices. Youth around the world are doing really remarkable work â€“ ideas like cycling from Alaska to Argentina to raise awareness about water or starting a social business in Haiti that can eventually stop Haiti from importing eggs, to name a few.
Iâ€™m sure youâ€™re now wondering what were shortcomings of the conference. Wellâ€”I wish there was more time dedicated for networking and discussions throughout the conference. And second, the weather in Miami was horrible. It pretty much rained all weekend.
But even with all that, I thoroughly enjoyed the conference and came back more pumped and excited about Jolkonaâ€™s potential for engaging college students and young professionals on a larger scale.
And as a final note, I highly recommend CGIU participants to take advantage of the various social tools CGIU has put together to help keep everyone connected and continue the conversations about positive impact. I am looking forward to reviewing the commitments that the students have come up with and even more, I look forward to seeing progress against these commitments. If the people I met are any indication, I am sure the participants at CGIU 2010 will have far reaching impacts around the world.