A Weekend in Boston with the Clintons: CGI U 2017

My Life’s Greatest Moment

If there was a single moment in my life that I can definitely say I’ve peaked is the moment the 42nd President of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton, shook my hands, and casually talked about Syracuse basketball and March Madness. In April 2016, two of my friends and I attended the 9th annual Clinton Global Initiative University at the University of California, Berkeley, a three-day conference that invites over 1,000 students from all 50 U.S. States and 80 countries to discuss pressing global issues in Education, Public Health, Poverty Alleviation, Peace and Human Rights, and Climate Change. Students create or present their “commitment to actions” which are essentially nonprofit organizations, projects, programs, or businesses that help alleviate these social issues.

This year, as the Campus Representative for CGI U, a position I’ve now held for two years, I was tasked to lead a team of nine students from Syracuse University and the City College of New York to Boston for the 10th annual CGI U conference which was held at Northeastern University.

Road Trip 2K17

Our journey began at Syracuse Hancock International Airport, and (un)fortunately, unlike most of my trips out of Upstate New York, we weren’t flying that day. Since we failed to secure funding from the University due to logistical issues, my team and I ended up renting a car from the airport for the 6-hour jaunt to Massachusetts. Fortunately, our Toyota Camry was upgraded to a much larger Hyundai Tucson, which meant we had a little more space for ourselves and our luggage. The 12-hour roundtrip drive turned out to be the absolute highlight of the weekend as it allowed us to bond, eat a crazy amount of rest stop food, and sing along to timeless classics such as “Barbie Girl” by Aqua and “Your Love is My Drug” by Ke$ha.

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We arrived in Marshfield, Massachusetts a little after 1PM, a small suburban town right outside of Boston. Instead of staying at the hotel we originally booked, the Courtyard by Marriott in South Boston, we canceled our reservation in favor of saving more money  and stayed at my friend Christina’s house. This turned out to be another great move because her house is quite literally on the beach with sweeping panoramic views from the outdoor deck. It also allowed us to bond even more since it pretty much felt like a giant sleepover party and we didn’t have to be crammed up in a tiny hotel room with two beds to share for everyone.

The 10th annual conference in Boston was the biggest one yet. Over 1,200 students were invited to attend. Famous guest speakers included former Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, 19th Surgeon General of the United States, Vivek Murthy, Olympic Medalist, Activist and Entrepreneur, Ibtihaj Muhammad, Musician and Race Relation Expert, Daryl Davis, and Thomas Cade Edwards, a high school senior from Houston, Texas who is credited for his heroic rescue efforts during Hurricane Harvey.

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My team with Vivek Murthy, 19th Surgeon General of the United States. Feat. random guy photobombing behind me 

 

Changing the World, One Commitment at a Time

Throughout the three-day conference, we had the opportunity to attend plenary sessions, working sessions, and other special events that enabled us to network with our peers, build skills, and potentially partner up with other teams. For the past three years, I’ve met incredible people from all over the world who has already done impactful and meaningful projects in their communities. This year, as a campus rep, I was able to work with RefuGirl, a non-profit program started by my friends, Rabita Tareque and Jaslin Kaur from the City College of New York. RefuGirl is a transformative leadership program for young refugee and immigrant women and girls who have resettled in the United States. Based in New York City, we seek to integrate youth in international political platforms to have a say on refugee issues. Leadership, Mentorship, and Sisterhood are the driving forces behind our mission to amplify voices. 

In addition, my team and I were able to share our idea for a commitment to action called Camp F.A.C.E. & Beyond (Fostering Awareness for Cultural Education). Our goal is to invite high school juniors from underrepresented populations, especially first generation Americans from the public school system in New York City to college campuses all over the United States who do not have the proper resources or network. Our mission is to provide extensive academic, social, and moral support throughout the complicated college application process by immersing them into a college campus and providing personalized mentorship. The four-day camp will expose them to the social and academic life of a traditional American campus by introducing them to different clubs and organizations, inviting them to sit in during lectures, scheduling office hours with professors from their field of interest, organizing a personalized campus tour, and matching them with a trained mentor, who is a current college student, and will provide further support before, during, and after their on-campus stay. Our vision is to be the proper resource for first generation American high school students who have high potential and guide them through their journey to higher education.

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RefuGirl co-founders, Jaslin Kaur (left) and Rabita Tareque (right)

Major Takeaway

One of the best parts of the trip was the opportunity to explore Boston and actually eat decent food with proper seasoning. My team had the chance to try out an Asian restaurant and introduced our friend, Christina, bibimbap, Korea’s national dish. The next day, we had Pho from a local Vietnamese place by Northeastern University and it was phenomenal. On our last day, we went to the North End and ate at a fantastic Italian restaurant, Bella Vista. Next door was Mike’s Pastry, which is a Boston icon for its desserts, especially its gigantic cannoli. We ended the weekend by sitting at by pier and enjoying the nice 70-degree weather outside.

The conference was a success. Although it was exhausting, it’s always inspiring to meet extremely motivated, talented, and amazing individuals who are seeking out to make the world better. It really reinforces the fact that if enough of us do our own part in fixing the things that are broken in our community, we might just actually change the world. And oh, meeting Bill for the third time wasn’t that bad either.

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Cheers!
Jez 

Interested in joining CGI U next year? Learn more at: https://www.clintonfoundation.org/clinton-global-initiative/meetings/cgi-university

 

 

 

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