Six CGI U Alumni Named ‘30 Under 30'

By Emilie Openchowski, CGI University Senior Associate

Last year, Chelsea Clinton opened the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) meeting with a call to action to the more than 1,000 students in attendance:

“I hope that what will be clear to all of you at the end of the weekend is that no one is ever too old or ever too young to make a difference. And that the earlier we start, the more likely we are to find the right partners for our efforts, and the better chance we have of making a positive difference that we clearly feel called to do.”

Since CGI U’s launch in 2007 as a platform to empower the next generation of leaders, thousands of college and university students have come together to launch projects that make a difference on their campuses and in communities around the globe. Whether providing educational opportunities to blind children in Lebanon, or expanding access to treatment for people suffering from eating disorders, students come to CGI U each year with new, specific, and measurable commitments to make the world a better place. They leave better prepared to turn their ideas into action.

This week, Forbes’ annual 30 Under 30 list recognized some of the most ambitious and innovative young leaders who are making a positive difference in fields ranging from healthcare to renewable energy.

We’re proud to say that six CGI U alumni are featured as part of this year’s class. Read below to learn how these inspiring young people are pursuing social good in smart and impactful ways.

Designing Digital Solutions for Foster Youth

Sixto Cancel grew up in several different foster homes, and realized that many of his peers needed help navigating the foster-care system and transitioning to adulthood. Cancel created Think of Us, a digital platform that supports foster youth through advocacy and educational services such as virtual coaching. Through Think of Us, Cancel also works to advance welfare reform across the country by accelerating the integration of technology.

Helping Blind Children in Lebanon

More than 300 million people in the world have visual impairments, and nearly 90% of them live in developing countries, where financial restrictions and cultural stigmas have excluded them from mainstream society. Sara Minkara became legally blind at 7 years old and received a wide range of support for her disability while living in the U.S., but realized when she visited her family in Lebanon that these support systems were not accessible to blind children in other developing countries.

To bridge this gap, Minkara started Empowerment Through Integration (ETI), which works with blind children in Lebanon to instill confidence in them by providing resources to develop practical life skills such as learning to walk with a white cane or using a computer. ETI also runs a summer camp for both blind and sighted children, and is working to expand its work into Ghana.

Providing a Lifeline for People with Eating Disorders

At least 30 million people suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S. Kristina Saffran and Liana Rosenman met in treatment for anorexia nervosa when they were 13 years old and wanted to make treatment more accessible for others who are suffering as well. Two years later they founded Project HEAL: Help to Eat, Accept and Live to raise money for people with eating disorders who are not able to afford treatment. Project HEAL now works with more than ten universities, high schools, and youth centers across the country who fundraise and promote awareness about eating disorder treatment.

Turning Middle School Students into Entrepreneurs

Daquan Oliver started WeThrive to foster the same lessons in entrepreneurship that were instilled in him at an early age by his mother. By pairing college students with middle-school students living in low-income communities for a yearlong after-school program, Oliver helps students learn about entrepreneurship through direct mentorship and hands-on experience.

Through the WeThrive program, middle schoolers work to build their own companies and acquire leadership positions while also developing their public speaking and personal finance skills. Additionally, any revenue their businesses create is donated to a local charity.

Increasing Access to Critical Medicine

Many important medicines and public health innovations are developed in academic labs, yet many of these innovations are not accessible in developing nations due to legal constraints.

Gloria Tavera, now an M.D./Ph.D. student at Case Western Reserve University, is a founding member and the current president of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, a group of university students who believe that universities have an opportunity and a responsibility to improve global access to public health goods. The group now has 100 chapters at universities in 18 different countries. Each of these chapters are working to change university practices so that when a university licenses a promising new drug to a pharmaceutical company, it also requires that the company make the drug available in poor countries at the lowest possible cost.


We’re proud of the work of these honorees and of the work of thousands of students across the country who are tackling some of the world’s most critical issues. Their work makes it possible to identify counterfeit drugs in the developing world, provide drinkable water in disaster zones, generate clean energy by playing soccer, and so much more.

Learn more about CGI U and student commitments on our website.