The Clinton Global Initiative honored UNT and two student organizations for UNT programs designed to address some of the world's most pressing challenges, including poverty, education and the environment.
The Clinton Global Initiative was founded by former President Bill Clinton in 2005 to bring leaders from around the world together to develop and implement innovative solutions to major global issues. A division of the larger organization, the Clinton Global Initiative University is a network designed to engage the next generation of world leaders by working with college students and university officials to solve world and community problems.
UNT and the two student organizations were recognized at the Clinton Global Initiative University Meeting at the University of Texas at Austin. More than 1,000 students representing 318 schools, 60 countries and all 50 states, attended the meeting. At the second annual meeting, attendees made commitments to take action or to join an existing commitment on an individual, student group or university level.
UNT was featured during the meeting's Global Health session for its Commitment to Action called the "International Indigenous Institute on Culture and Environment." The program is designed to improve understanding, respect and inclusion of indigenous values about the environment by non-indigenous policymakers and university communities. The goal is to turn environmental philosophy into action.
Through a series of summer institutes, the program will bring together indigenous and non-indigenous people to identify ways that this issue can be brought to attention of the international communities. The series will also address the increased demand for information about the environment by exploring the knowledge and experience of indigenous populations.
The first institute will take place this summer and will provide a forum for indigenous leaders to discuss connections between cultural and environmental issues, and the values they developed through centuries of interaction with local environmental conditions. Information from this institute will be used to develop a course on international indigenous philosophy in UNT's Department of Philosophy and Religion Studies and a course on international indigenous issues through UNT's International Studies program.
UNT students Brian Weinberg and Lindsey Bengfort each accepted $1,000 Outstanding Commitment grants on behalf of their respective organizations. For the youth-based awards, university officials and students agree to take action to improve communities throughout the world. The awards act as seed money for each organization to create lasting and positive social change.
Weinberg accepted the award for Recycle to Eradicate Poverty, a program designed to provide loans to the poor by recycling used cell phones. The goal of the challenge is to recycle one million cell phones, and use the money earned by the recycle program to provide loans to 100,000 women and help them end the cycle of poverty.
The program also will help reduce the number of cell phones that are improperly disposed. Weinberg says that phones that are not properly disposed leak harmful chemicals, such as arsenic and nickel. Recycling one million cell phones will prevent the pollution of about 350 trillion gallons of water.
Bengfort accepted the award for the Kroo Bay Initiative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring high-quality, primary-level education in Kroo Bay, an informal housing settlement located in Freetown, Sierra Leone. The organization was co-founded in Spring 2008 by UNT alumnus Ryan Schuette and Bengfort after her return from the region.
The Kroo Bay Initiative's immediate focus is to assist two existing schools, so that the schools can meet their basic operational needs and expand their educational programs.
UNT student Brandon Morton also was present to represent the North Texas Energy and Environment Club. Although the group did not receive a grant, the organization's members made their own commitment to action. The group will raise awareness about environmental sustainability at UNT and develop community partnerships in North Texas by creating a new series of events collectively titled Earth Week, which is co-sponsored by UNT's University Program Council. The week of on-campus events include tree planting and dumpster diving. The week is designed to raise awareness about sustainability and the need to reduce individual and community carbon footprints.
The club cooperates with area businesses, governments and nonprofit groups to educate communities throughout North Texas about current energy and environmental issues, like climate change, energy development and natural resource sustainability. For more information visit the Collegiate Energy Association.
Buddy Price with UNT News Service can be reached at Buddy.Price@unt.edu.