Twenty-five Miami Dade College students joined the Clinton Global Initiative University, a project of former President Bill Clinton’s Foundation for student leaders at the University of California, Berkeley, from April 1 to 3. At the event, more than 1,200 students from more than 100 countries presented their commitments to action projects addressing an issue on campus or a local community around the world.
“I got a pretty good global perspective and the issues that are going on internationally, not just in the United States,” said Chaveli Beltran, 20, a political science student at InterAmerican Campus.
Her project, Advocates for Immigrant Scholars, aimed to address poverty alleviation.
The 2016 Clinton Global Initiative University focused on five areas: education, environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation, and public health. This is the third year that Miami Dade College has taken part at the Clinton Global Initiative University.
Beltran participated in working and skills sessions facilitated by leaders from the different areas.
“The [session] that I liked the most was Beyond Diversity: Inclusion and Empowerment on Campus,” Beltran said. “because different personalities from the community came out and they spoke about how important education is.”
Roberto Sosa and Frank Lam were selected to present their projects several times throughout the weekend to compete for Tomorrow Financial funding which focuses on providing financial counseling to transitioning individuals like students and recent immigrants. Sosa and Lam are 19-year-old accounting and finance majors at Kendall Campus. They took part in the competition for the Social Venture Challenge and made it to the final round of 25 students.
“We were the only community college that got to the finalist round,” said Lam, who thought CGIU was a valuable opportunity.
Clinton and his daughter, Chelsea Clinton, interacted with students during different events at the conference.
Latoya Gonzalez was one of six students to ask Bill Clinton a question at the closing conversation on Saturday evening. Gonzalez submitted the question early that morning through an email sent to all students. She was later called on by host Conan O’Brien at the last event of the conference.
“I was nervous, but I was doing it for my school,” said Gonzalez, a 25-year-old pursuing social work at Wolfson Campus. Her project, entitled the MDC Wolfson Shark Pantry, addressed poverty alleviation.
She stood up and asked former president Bill Clinton, if he was a student right now, what would his commitment to action be.
“I would have a commitment that would accelerate as dramatically as I possibly could the deployment of renewable energy in my neighborhood,” Clinton replied without hesitation.
He added that he would take advantage of the diversity in Miami and propose a intercultural understanding project.
Every year the conference ends with a day of service. On Sunday, students worked along with the Mayor of Oakland, Libby Schaaf and celebrities like Marshawn Lynch.
“It’s a humbling experience,” Sosa said, “it shows you that there are communities that need help, and that we can be the driving force that helps those communities.”
Students who participated are encouraged to apply for the Innovation Fund. For the first time this year, the winning proposal will be awarded $1million to develop their projects further.
“Our goal is that our students will, for the rest of their lives, be people who are involved in the community and realize we all have an obligation to give back,” said Josh Young, the college-wide director of the Institute for Civic Engagement of Democracy who attended the conference. “We want our students to recognize that we all have an obligation to help others and solve problems and make the world better for everyone.”