CGI University Gets Involved: Microscholarships, Hens For Haiti, WaterWheels, And More

This weekend, Clinton Global Initiative University convenes its fifth annual event, bringing together 1,000 students from 250 schools from around the world. Here are some of the exciting big ideas students have for practical solutions to global challenges–and how you can get in on the action.

CGI University Gets Involved: Microscholarships, Hens For Haiti, WaterWheels, And More


How many students does it take to screw in a compact fluorescent lightbulb? Tony Anderson, Morehouse College ’08, can answer that. 

Together with college friend Marcus Penny, they founded Retrofit A Million (LRAM) for the purpose of capturing and replacing 1 million incandescent light bulbs with compact florescent bulbs in homes in low-income neighborhoods. So far, 1,000 student volunteers from several universities have screwed in 40,000 bulbs. 

The bonus is that these student volunteers have also installed water-efficiency devices, including shower heads, low-flow toilets, and bathroom and kitchen sink aerators. “Having spent just over $78,000, LRAM has achieved over $7 million in energy and water savings,” Anderson said in an interview. “That’s an 89:1 return on investment.” 

Anderson launched LRAM with the award that he received at the first annual Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U), led by President Clinton in 2008. Each year at CGI U, college students from around the world compete in presenting practical solutions to address global challenges. This weekend, CGI U convenes its fifth annual event bringing together 1,000 students from 250 schools from around the world.  

Here are a few more of the 3,000 commitments to action made by students, universities, and youth groups.

Funding high school scholarships for students in emerging countries for $150. 

Matt Severson conceived his project during a trip to Tanzania when he completed high school in 2007. It was then that Severson met elementary school student John Medo (pictured above, with Severson), whose lifetime aspiration to become president was limited by the prohibitive expense of $150 for high-school tuition. Severson’s encounter with Medo inspired him to think bigger than merely helping the one young Tanzanian student.


While attending Brown University in 2009, Severson and his friends Roxana Moussavian and Andrew Perrault established The School Fund. They leveraged their 2011 CGI U award to raise more than $100,000 from nearly 750 individuals to fund high school education, supplies, and uniforms for 353 school years for 213 students. Now that Severson and his friends have graduated and are working in full-time jobs, The School Fund continues to be staffed primarily by 33 student volunteers from several universities.

With corporate and foundation grants funding The School Fund’s limited expenses, all online contributions go entirely toward student tuition and supplies. Check out The School Fund to see just how easy and fun it is to contribute. You’ll see photos of the students, their interests, aspirations, favorite books, and profiles. The students interact with donors and with each other. The School Fund is now scaling via partnerships with organizations in the key communities where The School Fund is most active.

As for Tanzania student John Medo, Severson told me that he’s already completed four years of high school O (ordinary) Levels and is now entering his A (advanced) Levels. 

WaterWheels, chicken eggs, and T-shirts for a better world. 


Wello, Cynthia Koenig’s commitment from 2010, saves women and girls miles of walking and the heavy lifting of carrying water by providing them with the WaterWheel. Not only does this tool improve health and access to water, but it also frees up girls for education and women for education and opportunities to earn income for their families.

Meanwhile, Christina Newman reported to me from Haiti that 1,500 hens arrived and they are expected to lay 1,250 eggs per day. This is big news, since her 2010 CGI U commitment, Hens for Haiti, was to construct an egg facility to provide economic stimulation for the town in rural Haiti and a local source of protein that is easily accessible and affordable for most people. With major construction completed on the facility last fall and the installation of solar electricity completed last month, a benediction ceremony was held for the hen facility just last Friday with the local pastor, mayor, agronomist, community members, and three radio stations in attendance.

Tyler Spencer, a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, and founder and CEO of The Grassroot Project, shared with me the progress of his CGI U 2011 commitment. Grassroot has trained 116 college athletes to implement sports-based HIV prevention and life skills programming for 650 students at 22 middle schools in Washington, D.C. Additionally, Grassroot has established partnerships with D.C. public schools, universities, and government and nonprofit institutions. 

Kyle Lloyd McCollom Jr. was awarded a CGI U grant of $6,000 in 2010 to establish Triple-Thread Apparel, where former offenders to society are trained and employed to screen print quality custom apparel. Triple Thread’s employees are residents of Dismas House, a halfway house in Nashville that is now Triple Thread’s nonprofit parent. Since the apparel company’s launch, over 30 Dismas residents have printed 16,000 shirts for over 160 customers–from the mayor of Nashville to top country artists. “By buying from Triple Thread, our customers help our employees transition into permanent employment as contributing members of society,” McCollom said.


Don’t feel left out: Here’s how you can participate. 

The exuberance conveyed by these CGI U alumni in their interviews and emails with me was absolutely infectious. I encourage you to check out these great websites and consider how you might participate.

For example, companies and college teams can find out more here about engaging in Retrofit A Million’s five-hour bulb installation projects. Additionally, since 60% of the organization’s funding goes toward lightbulbs, companies seeking to make product contributions can get in touch as well. “If we can do this with such few resources, imagine how much more is possible,” said Anderson. “We’ve got the model. Replacing a million lightbulbs is well within reach.”

Or fund a high school student’s tuition or supplies here.

Let’s help these CGI U students and alumni to help make the world better.


About the author

Korngold provides strategy consulting to global corporations on sustainability, facilitating corporate-nonprofit partnerships, and training and placing hundreds of business executives on NGO/nonprofit boards for 20+ years. She provides strategy and board governance consulting to NGO/nonprofit boards, foundations, and educational and healthcare institutions.