UM Projects for CGIU Receive Grants

By Maya Bell

UM Projects for CGIU Receive Grants

By Maya Bell
In all, 13 student projects will receive funding ranging from $500 to $1,250.

From providing Ugandans with affordable eye glasses, to building low-cost, energy-efficient computers for Detroit high schoolers, to convincing fellow students to give up bottled water, 13 University of Miami projects aimed at addressing a myriad of issues will receive seed funding at the Clinton Global Initiative University 2015, which opens its eighth annual meeting on the UM campus Friday.

Perhaps inspired by the passion and worldview of UM President Donna E. Shalala, who served as President Bill Clinton’s secretary of health and human services through his two terms in office, eight of the Commitments to Action chosen to share $10,000 provided by UM address public health issues. The grants range from $500 to $1,250 per project.

Commitments to Actions are a hallmark of CGI U, which since its inaugural meeting in 2008 has generated more than 4,800 commitments from thousands of University students to address global challenges in five areas—education, environment and climate change, poverty alleviation, peace and human rights, and public health.

Read more about the CGI U event here.

Andrew Wiemer, director of the Butler Center for Volunteer Service and Leadership Development, who co-chaired the committee that reviewed UM’s 2015 proposals, said winnowing them to just 13 was a difficult task. In all, 150 UM students who submitted 95 Commitments to Action are among the more than 1,100 students from around the world invited to this year’s CGI U meeting.

“I’m so impressed with the number of Commitments to Action submitted by University of Miami students from across the institution,” Wiemer said. “The breadth and scope of their projects reflect the type of students attending UM and their commitment to the local, national, and global community. I look forward to these students implementing their Commitments to Action and making a difference in our communities and across the world.”

In addition to Jeffrey Peterson and Sadegh Asefi’s commitment to provide affordable glasses in Uganda, the public health commitments awarded UM funding include Tara S. Neal’s proposal to launch a train-the-trainer family planning program in Afghanistan; Michael Ragheb’s commitment to reduce the rate of Haitian infants who contract hyrocephalus through infections; Nika Hosseini and Elizabeth Tran’s project to deliver clean drinking water to Kiburara, Uganda; Carolina Puyana Barcha and Steven Denyer’s proposal to develop a pottery factory that delivers health interventions to its employees in Siete de Agosoto, Colombia; Stephanie Cheng, Miguel Amezcua, and Leonard Barrera’s commitment to provide sustainable potable water solutions to the town of San Jose in Los Santos, Panama; Noeline W. Prins and Anuradha Gunathilaka’s project to build toilets for two preschools in rural Sri Lanka; and, closer to home, Amelia Poquette’s commitment to improve access to long-acting, reversible contraception for homeless women in Miami.

In addition to engineering student Eliyahu Davis’s commitment to close the knowledge gap in Detroit through the development and donation of affordable computers, two other education commitments were selected to receive seed funding. They include Alexandra Hernandez and Natalia Valbuena’s proposal to improve the parenting skills of foster, adoptive, and relative parents who are raising abused and neglected youngsters; and Guerdiana Thelomar’s commitment to give Haitian youths the opportunity to share their stories and desire for change through a week-long photo and life skills workshop.

In addition to Randall Seenandan, Natasha Koermer, and Ryan Durga’s “Take Back the Tap” initiative to educate students about the deleterious effects of bottled-water production and consumption, one other environment and climate change commitment was selected to receive seed funding—Catalina Vasquez-Carrillo’s project aimed at conserving critical habitats for endangered sea turtles in the Colombian Caribbean.

UM’s selection committee, which was co-chaired by Jenni Spangenberg, assistant director of residence life, also singled out five other UM Commitments to Action for honorable mentions. That special recognition went to Gavin Grieb and Devangi Shah’s poverty alleviation commitment to build a solar-powered water collection and filtration system in Dingani, India; Matilde Piana, Jacob Rudolph, and Ayre Knaani’s peace and human rights commitment to engage students as advocates for state legislation pertaining to youth-relevant social issues; Andrea O’Neal and Madelyn Elia’s education commitment to teach young girls about self-respect, positive body image, healthy peer relationships, and the importance of educational achievement; Jason and Raymond Truong’s public health commitment to raise awareness about mental health through a “Tortured Artist” Art Walk in Wynwood; and Lena Mobin and Haley Welch’s education commitment to establish an after-school program for children in Jacmel, Haiti, to instill a passion for learning and staying in school.

Building on the successful model of the Clinton Global Initiative, which brings together world leaders to take action on global challenges, President Clinton launched the Clinton Global Initiative University in 2007 to engage the next generation of leaders on college campuses around the world. UM hosted the third CGI U in April 2010, and is the first university to host two CGI Us. Over the years, 309 UM students have made or partnered on 177 Commitments to Action.

In all, this year’s CGI U has more than $900,000 available through the CGI University Network, the Resolution Project Social Venture Challenge, and other opportunities to help select CGI U students turn their ideas into action.

Maya Bell can be reached at 305-284-7972.