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Northeastern students tackle global challenges at Clinton Global Initiative conference

This weekend the largest ever contingent of Northeastern students will attend the Clinton Global Initiative University conference, which is being held in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Fifteen Northeastern students representing seven projects were accepted to the conference, which will convene more than 1,000 college students to discuss and develop innovative solutions to pressing global challenges.

The conference, which is part of the Clinton Global Initiative, will be hosted by President Bill Clinton and his daughter Chelsea Clinton. Students will have the chance to network, exchange ideas with like-minded peers about their work, and attend various events and workshops.

We spoke with three students who will be attending the conference, with a particular focus on their innovative projects and what the conference means to them.

VISM

VISM is an online platform that connects college students with local nonprofit organizations looking for skills-based volunteers.

“Students want an opportunity where they can use what they have learned in class,” said Deborah Vasquez, SSH’20, one of three students traveling to CGI U on behalf of VISM.

In addition to the skills-based opportunities, a key facet of this program is flexibility, Vasquez explained. Many of the volunteer opportunities would be remote, she said, allowing students to complete the tasks from virtually anywhere.

The group has met with numerous nonprofit organizations, surveyed about 80 students, and will lead a focus group next week to help determine best practices moving forward.

Mindi Chen, DMSB’17, the founder of VISM, is not going to the conference. Vasquez will be traveling to CGIU with Carson Markle, DMSB’20, and Brandon Chung, CCIS’20.

“Just to be there with other students who want to make the same social impact that you want to make, and having those connections in the future, is going to be really helpful,” Vasquez said.

GOALS for Strong Financial Futures

While on co-op in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, last fall, Nadav David, DMSB’17, volunteered at a local youth empowerment organization that uses financial literacy to help area students reach their personal and financial goals.

Inspired by the program, he and business partner Miranda Beggin, DMSB’17, began working to launch a similar program in Boston called GOALS for Strong Financial Futures.

The pair hopes to take a three-phase approach to helping underserved high school students in the Boston area: The plan is to assist the students with identifying personal goals; team up with local community banks to teach the students financial literacy; and then develop internship opportunities for the students at local businesses.

“The personal goals were a huge part in grounding the students and making the program engaging,” David said of the Milwaukee organization. “You make it so it is worth it for the students, and they’re not only learning something but also applying it in their own lives.”

When he arrives at CGI U, David will be looking to meet people from various educational and professional backgrounds, including those with technical expertise, whom he said will bring a different perspective to the social impact conversation. He and Beggin are currently working on growing partnerships with local businesses, but are in need of student volunteers.

Early childhood development in the Dominican Republic

Vanessa Cohen, S’18, first learned about an opportunity to work in early childhood development in the Dominican Republic through Northeastern’s Social Enterprise Institute.

Eventually, she took a leadership role in a project that looks to provide tools and new learning experiences aimed at increasing the educational opportunities for disadvantaged Haitian children living in the Caribbean nation.

“Our main goal is to improve and enhance their curriculum,” Cohen explained. “The students just have the basics. When you teach them what a plant is, they want the whole plant experience. I want them to see how it works, not just what it is.”

Last month, Cohen traveled to the Dominican Republic as part of Northeastern’s Alternative Spring Break program and met with teachers to learn more about their needs. And she sees CGI U as a unique opportunity to generate more ideas.

“It doesn’t matter at what point your project is,” Cohen said, noting that her project partners, Lara Nuchowicz, DMSB’17, and Izzaaz Hishamudin, SSH’16, will be accompanying her to the conference. “I feel that the main point of the conference is to improve and take your project to the next level.”