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How CGI University alumni are taking action to combat COVID-19

Meet five alumni who are using lessons learned from CGI University to lead the way in fighting this global health crisis.

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From left to right: CGI U alumni Andrew Aboujaoude ’16, Christine Schindler ’12, Sixto Cancel ’13, Mariam Adil ’14, and Kennedy Odede ‘10.

Since 2008, Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) has brought together thousands of students to develop innovative solutions to our world’s most pressing challenges. After COVID-19 made an immediate impact in communities around the world, many students in CGI U’s diverse alumni network have turned their ideas into action to combat the pandemic.

From spreading awareness and public health guidance to serving people experiencing homelessness in communities across the country, meet five CGI U alums rolling up their sleeves to address COVID-19.

Using video games to combat the spread of misinformation

Mariam Adil and a group of fellow graduate students from George Washington University joined CGI U in 2014 with a commitment to developing video games that would make a positive impact. After building momentum from CGI U, Mariam founded GRID — Gaming Revolution for International Development and Gaming Revolution for Inspiring Development — a social impact gaming studio that designs mobile games to engage and inform users in developing countries to address knowledge gaps, inspire behavioral change, and raise awareness on important issues.

When COVID-19 began impacting communities around the world, Mariam and her team quickly got to work to combat the spread of misinformation with a new game, CoronaCombat.

The game takes users on a fact-seeking, myth-busting adventure aimed at emphasizing the facts and best practices around COVID-19. In May, GRID was able to release the game in English and Urdu, in order to expand their reach to communities in Pakistan.

Speaking out to support foster youth

In 2013, Sixto Cancel and his team from Virginia Commonwealth University committed to mobilize young adults who have aged out of foster care to serve as leaders in child welfare reform in the United States and around the world. Since his time as a CGI U commitment-maker, Sixto founded Think of Us, an organization working to build a brighter future for foster youth around the country.

When the pandemic caused an immediate change to daily life, Sixto began working to support foster youth dealing with its impacts. He’s been tirelessly advocating for policies that will help the child welfare system get through this crisis, and provide additional support and services to foster youth. His organization Think of Us created the Foster Care COVID-19 Command Center in collaboration with foster youth, agencies, and others serving foster youth across the U.S. In addition, Think of Us has hosted a COVID-19-focused town hall series to connect with hundreds of older foster youth around the country.

Supporting essential businesses on the front lines

Christine Schindler joined CGI U from Duke University in 2012 with a passion for leveraging technology to identify and overcome gaps in our public health systems. After seeing a major gap in gender representation in STEM fields, she founded the nonprofit organization Girls Engineering Change (GEC), of which she now serves on the board of directors. She later founded PathSpot Technologies, which protects food service companies from the threat of foodborne illness by scanning employees’ hands to see if they have harmful contamination that could make someone sick in less than two seconds.

Handwashing has been considered one of the simplest and most cost-effective solutions to slowing the spread of outbreaks like COVID-19. Christine and her team at PathSpot quickly mobilized to find creative ways to utilize the technology to help a growing base of businesses such as restaurants, grocery stores, farms, and more protect their employees and customers. In addition, PathSpot is working to adapt its technology for use across essential industries like hospitals and schools. As businesses begin to reopen, PathSpot is helping lead the way to a more hygienic environment for customers and employees.

Creating innovative solutions to flatten the curve in Kenya

Ten years ago, Kennedy Odede joined CGI U as a Wesleyan University student with a commitment to give back to his community and educate and provide maternal health care for women in Kenya. He founded Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), a girls’ education initiative and community development program in the Kibera slum outside of Nairobi.

Amid the pandemic, densely populated communities like Kibera were forced on the front lines, in need of creative solutions where social distancing was not possible. In order to flatten the curve, SHOFCO installed more than 200 handwashing stations throughout Kenya, in addition to providing critical supplies and educational resources. Kennedy recently joined Chelsea Clinton in a discussion about the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable communities such as Kibera.

Serving vulnerable communities across the country

Andrew Aboujaoude joined CGI U in 2016 as a University of Central Florida student with a commitment to help the people experiencing homelessness in Orlando and Dallas. After learning more about the community and disparities in public health, Andrew founded Hearts for the Homeless Orlando to help prevent cardiac disease through free health screenings. Through weekly screenings for hypertension at local food shares, his team is able to develop accurate blood pressure histories and connect at-risk individuals to free, nearby clinics for diagnosis and medication.

Hearts for Homeless has expanded these efforts beyond Orlando to reach vulnerable communities nationwide, from Los Angeles to Boston, and in the wake of COVID-19, his team continues to put people experiencing homelessness first by distributing resources during this challenging time. Hearts for the Homeless International has provided sanitation packages, washing stations, and educational resources to vulnerable communities. His team has also mobilized hundreds of student volunteers in seven major cities to help people who are homeless connect to health solutions during COVID-19.

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Learn more about CGI U’s COVID-19 resources for students and higher education professionals here.

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

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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