Students Attend Clinton Global Initiative University

by Sylan Kim '15G

The Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U), hosted by President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Chelsea Clinton, held its eighth annual conference at the University of Miami in March 2015. More than 1,000 students with 700 commitments to action, or projects, were selected from more than 300 schools in 75 countries. During the three-day conference, students met innovators, social leaders, and civically engaged celebrities and discussed new, specific plans to address global issues. This year eight Nazareth students with seven commitments were accepted to address one of CGI U’s five focus areas: Education, Environment and Climate Change, Peace and Human Rights, Poverty Alleviation, and Public Health.

Attending CGI U was especially meaningful to me because I improved my confidence and realized I can contribute to the community and society. I am from South Korea and came to the United States to attend graduate school in social work. Although I already had my master’s degree in social work and worked as a social worker in South Korea, my first year in this country was much harder than I originally expected. My first internship at the child and youth mental health center was challenging due to my cultural differences and language barrier. However, I soon found similarities in critical mental health issues among youth clients, such as depression or suicide. Teen suicide is a huge social problem in my country, and American youths had the same issue. Starting from this point, I tried to develop an effective tool to help their treatment and recovery process.

I created my commitment for CGI U about a smartphone application for youth mental health. It is designed to improve the therapeutic relationship between youth clients and their therapists. It includes mental health tools such as a daily mood check, an emergency call button, self-risk assessment, and cognitive behavioral therapy strategies as homework. The data from each individual will be sent to the agency database system, and therapists can use that information during their face-to-face sessions. This application will help connect high-risk youth clients to the therapy process and reduce their suicidal risk.

This project was selected as one of the few exhibitors at the CGI U conference. I networked with a lot of interested people, such as an app designer, a mental health professional, and a public health foundation CEO. Now I am in contact with one of them and discussing how to develop this idea as a reality. In addition, I am promoting the project to community mental health organizations and was even interviewed for a radio broadcast to explain this project to the public.

I think young generations have innovative ideas and creative strategies, and Nazareth College and the Clinton Global Initiative allow us to make a meaningful change in the world. One of the guest speakers at CGI U said, “Use your status as a student, and you will get a number of resources because people eagerly support students and accept their mistakes. Never hesitate to challenge and to make mistakes.” I totally agree with this idea, and now believe that anyone can make a difference.

Sylan Kim '15G graduated in May with a master’s in social work.