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CGI U Class of 2020 commits to creating change in response to infectious diseases, climate change, and more.

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With the announced postponement of this year’s Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) annual meeting given developments regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, the CGI U team and partners are working to create virtual programming that will continue to provide students with meaningful engagement and learning opportunities.

In addition, CGI U 2020 students are still developing over 650 unique Commitments to Action. These are new, specific, and measurable social impact projects that address a challenge identified by the students themselves. They collaborate with other CGI U classmates and receive assistance from the CGI U team and Commitment Mentors. Students implement and evaluate their projects through a detailed, four-module curriculum that CGI U provides throughout the year.

Here are just a few examples of the incredible commitments that students have been building this year. The commitments address a wide range of global and community challenges, from responding to the opioid epidemic and creating jobs for agricultural workers, to focusing on resiliency efforts in a changing climate.

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Mariam Mansouri — Queen’s University; Mentorship group: Infectious Diseases; Mentor: Dr. Adriano Schneider

What motivated you to apply to CGI U?

I was motivated to join CGI U because of the work the Clinton Foundation has been doing to improve public health by combating epidemics such as the opioid crisis. I believe that CGI U is the ideal platform for me to convey the message that a health threat anywhere is a health threat everywhere, and to make the world healthier, we need global and multi-sectoral collaboration to fight health threats, including controlling emerging infectious diseases.

Tell us about your Commitment to Action, and why is it important to you?

I am from the Middle East, a part of the world that has several continuing conflicts, population movement, and crowding, as in the Hajj season in Saudi Arabia or Arbaeen in Iraq; all these conditions make the region at high risk of emerging and reemerging infectious diseases. However, this issue is not specific to the Middle East, because infectious diseases do not stop at political or geographical boundaries, and all it takes is one traveler on an airplane to spread the infection anywhere in the world as evident now with COVID-19.

My Commitment to Action uses a complex systems approach to control emerging infectious diseases, using coronaviruses as an example. I aim to accomplish that by understanding how different factors interact to cause the spread of potentially fatal infectious diseases by using system dynamics modeling and mapping approaches such as causal loop diagrams, that will simulate the effects of changes in policy or outbreak response interventions. These models identify “leverage points” to reduce the risk of spread of these infections and will make recommendations for policy and influence stakeholders to adopt and evaluate their impact.

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Eddy Alvarado, Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo; Mentorship group: Agriculture; Mentor: Dr. Esther Ngumbi

What motivated you to apply to CGI U?

My main motivation to apply to CGI University was to be part of an ecosystem focused on the implementation of effective solutions to solve the great challenges we face in the world.

I see CGI University as a platform that allows social entrepreneurs like me to learn and develop their projects to take them to the next level and impact the lives of thousands of people.

Tell us about your Commitment to Action, and why is it important to you?

During visits to my family in the community of Pueblo Viejo, I realized that year after year, a large part of the farmers lose crops due to diseases, and this situation keeps them on the edge of extreme poverty.

After researching this problem, I found that the USDA estimates that 40% of the world’s food production is lost as a consequence of diseases that affect crops and as a result, I made a commitment to help improve the conditions of poor farmers in the Dominican Republic and around the world through Agro360.

At Agro360, we focus on three fundamental pillars: job creation for young people in rural areas, environmental impact through reduced use of agrochemical, and reduction of the average age of farmers. We put technologies of the future within reach for poor farmers and use artificial intelligence to analyze the data in real-time to predict a prevent the appearance of diseases in crops, giving the farmers access to actionable data that help them be more productive and become more resilient to the mounting effects of climate change.

With help from our technology, we are making agriculture more dynamic and intuitive for young people, promoting their interest and insertion in this activity to ensure the handover from one farming generation to the other to guarantee the nation’s food sustainability.

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Sarah McKeown, Johns Hopkins University; Mentorship group: Health Education; Mentor: Lauren Valdez

What motivated you to apply to CGI U?

I attended a Clinton Foundation event and was impressed by the priorities President Clinton highlighted. A few days later, a friend shared about the opportunity to apply for CGI U, and I realized what a fantastic opportunity it is. I appreciated the organizational structure of the CGI U and was drawn to the opportunity to collaborate with other young, motivated people working in public health.

Through the CGI U platform and the mentoring program, I have been able to learn the keys to effective project management and how to accurately communicate our work and the impact that we create in our communities.

Tell us about your Commitment to Action, and why is it important to you?

My Commitment aims to expand access to naloxone, a life-saving drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, by making naloxone training more accessible to young people in Baltimore in environments they’re already in. So, bringing training to classes, sports teams, and community organizations to cut out barriers to access such as poverty, education, and logistical that young people often face. It’s been impossible for me not to see the impact of overdose and substance use disorders while living in Baltimore, and this Commitment to Action is important to me because it targets youth who arguably have the most to lose from this public health epidemic.

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Tracy-Ann Hyman, University of the West Indies; Mentorship group: Disaster Response and Resilience; Mentor: Greg Rulifson

What motivated you to apply to CGI U?

While pursuing my Master's Degree in Sustainability Science, I realized that my approach to challenges was not to dwell in the problem identification phase but to automatically shift into solutions mode. Crying over spilled milk is just not in my DNA. This revelation made me realize that I thrive in finding solutions to problems, and with this at the forefront of my mind, I was motivated to apply for CGI U. The clarity and segmentation of CGI U’s focus areas allowed me to quickly identify my area of interest: Disaster Response and Resilience, an area that I’m very passionate about.

CGI U provides a platform that cuts across racial and geographical borders, and fosters collaboration and working in teams to solve the world’s most pressing problems. Some people may not believe that solutions to our challenges lie within the youth, but CGI U does. CGI U is committed to nourishing creative ideas, inventions, and innovations from young people around the world for global transformation.

Tell us about your Commitment to Action, and why is it important to you?

The Caribbean region is one of the most disaster-prone regions in the world, and when Hurricane Dorian devastated the Bahamas in 2019, I made a promise that this level of casualty should not occur in my region when the technology exists to help. With more extreme weather events expected due to the mounting effects of climate change, along with increasing rates of urbanization and aging infrastructure, flooding presents a major challenge for the region. Planning for emergencies like flooding, however, is subject to several challenges within the Caribbean, including issues with vulnerability assessments, outdated maps, and a reactive approach to planning and development.

My Commitment to Action is focused on creating Information and Communication Technologies (ICT’s) to develop community early warning systems that will save lives and safeguard property from hazards. My team and I are developing a Flood Planning and Impact Tool (FPIT) that aids disaster planners in making faster, smarter, and better decisions so that Caribbean nations can prepare and plan for worst-case scenarios.

CGI U is a growing network of young leaders who are developing innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

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