Hundreds of Clinton Global Initiative University students fanned out through Boston neighborhoods on Sunday for a Day of Action that capped off the weekend conference.
Students went to St. Stephen’s Youth Programs, Inner City Sanctuary for the Arts, the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, and the Orchard Gardens housing complex to work on projects that involved gardening, cleaning, painting, and building.
To kick things off, though, the students assembled at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School, where they were addressed by former U.S. President Bill Clinton; Chelsea Clinton, vice chair of the Clinton Foundation; Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh; Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun; and John Tobin, Northeastern vice president for city and community affairs.
Walsh highlighted the importance of engaging in service, encouraging students to “work together to fight for what’s right, to represent the people who need us and who want us to stand for them.”
It’s that forward-thinking, innovative spirit that defines Boston, Walsh said. He and others noted that it encapsulates Northeastern as well.
“Northeastern embodies the ethic of service that CGI represents,” President Clinton said, referring to the Clinton Global Initiative. He pointed to the university’s co-op program as evidence. “Think about this: an ordinary part of being a student at Northeastern University is taking six months to be in another culture and be of use,” he said.
On co-op, students have an opportunity to get hands-on experience in a given field, engaging with it in a deep and lasting way. Over the weekend, that ethos was on full display by CGI U students who are working to solve global challenges in education, public health, the environment, and other fields. “What I’ve seen over the past two and a half days—what I’ve learned from Chelsea and President Clinton and from all of you—is that you’re committed not only to look at and study an issue, but to engage with it to solve it,” Aoun said.
Indeed, service was a central part of the weekend’s activities. Chelsea Clinton described it as “leaving these places a little more beautiful than when we arrived.”
Anna Sullie, a student from Michigan State University who spent the morning spreading mulch at the Orchard Gardens housing complex, expanded on Clinton’s point. “This whole weekend, we’ve been talking about ideas for big changes,” she said. “It’s good to do something really tangible as well. The change we’re making here is just as important as saving the rest of the world.”