Chelsea Clinton, student media discuss on-campus projects

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More than 6,500 students have made 4,800 commitments through the Clinton Global Initiative University, and at the University of Miami the 2015 CGIU has cultivated 95 commitments to action.

Chelsea Clinton met with members of student media for a roundtable discussion highlighting two UM students’ projects Saturday morning at the BankUnited Center.

“There are some people who very much kind of use their commitments as a launching pad for their careers,” she said. “We do know some pretty remarkable examples that we’re proud of having been able to support of people who’s commitments really became their callings and their professions.”

Senior Andrea O’Neal, along with Madelyn Elia, committed to hosting an empowerment camp with SPARK, a local mentoring program. The camp is a day-long program that teaches girls from the third, fourth and fifth grades about self-respect, healthy relationships and the importance of education.

This is the critical time when girls’ self-esteem begins to drop, according to O’Neal.

“I think we can all attest to that time period when our self-esteem did decline, I call it my ugly duckling stage,” she said. “I was blessed enough to have people who helped me during that time period and there are girls here in Miami-Dade county who don’t have that.”

O’Neal plans to host the event this year and hopes it can develop into a monthly program for girls in Miami-Dade County.

“For us to go into the community, understand their struggle, and then for them to actually see different races, different people of religion, different creeds who they can actually relate to, I think that is awesome,” she said.

Clinton said O’Neal’s project is relevant considering new research that shows both male and female teachers start calling less and less on girls in science and math classes around fourth grade. Clinton said this “sends a not really subtle signal that their answers are less valuable.”

“All that really coalesces in a really detrimental way for girls’ self-esteem and I believe we’re all the poorer for it because we lose half of our potential,” she added.

O’Neal works with the Butler Center for Student Leadership and Service and aspires to work in communications for nonprofits when she graduates in May with majors in public relations and human and social development.

The second student was sophomore Nika Hosseini, an ecosystem science and policy major. Along with her partner Elizabeth Tran, Hosseini is committed to improving the water quality in Kiburara, Uganda.

Hosseini plans to partner with AquaSolve Ventures and IDEAS for Us, two organizations focused on social change via access to basic necessities, to install a water purification system.

“I kept thinking of ideas of how I can be impactful in this field, and I want to be one of the many people who are working to help solve these issues, especially water-related issues,” she said.

Hosseini is a member of the Environmental Conservation Organization, a branch of Student Government. She has a passion for helping the world that comes her background as a child of Iranian immigrants, and the advice her mother gave her and her sister every morning on the way to school.

“She’d say ‘wow look at our life, how blessed are we?’ and then she would turn to us and say ‘never take anything for granted and always give back more than you receive because that is the life that we live and that is how you become a true citizen of the world and a good person,'” Hosseini said.

Hosseini has a goal to raise $30,000 to purchase and install the system, which will take two years to fully implement, with one of those years dedicated solely to fundraising.

“Andrea and Nika are good sort of snapshot of the types of commitments that people make, sometimes very much rooted in their local communities, either where their college or university is based or their hometown or where they have a skills set,” Clinton said. “People who have a unique skills set that is best matched to solve a challenge literally half way around the world.”


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