Two students at The University of Texas-Pan American got some great lessons on social entrepreneurship recently from none other than a former president to bring their vision to improve health care for millions to fruition.
There they joined more than 1,000 college students from 50 states and 82 countries to learn how to best address local to global challenges from a distinguished list of leaders committed to public service and actions. Built on the successful model of the Clinton Global Initiative, which former President Bill Clinton began to bring together world leaders each year to take action on global challenges, the CGI U engages the next generation of leaders on college campuses around the world.
"(President) Clinton said this initiative is a gathering of people with big ideas but with a small budget. He gets us there to teach us and show us that there is a way and that anything is possible," Correa said.
To attend the conference, students are required to make a "commitment to action" in their application to solve an issue in one of the CGI U focus areas of education, environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation, and public health. The commitments to action can be implemented on campus, in the community, or in a different part of the world.
Pablos-Velez and Correa, both members of UTPA's Student Association for Medical Spanish (SAMS), brought their organization's plan to provide free medical interpreting services - called InterpreCorps - to a large underserved population to address the language barriers that affect millions of patients in the U.S. health delivery system every year.
InterpreCorps would provide opportunities for advanced Spanish students to meet the needs of patients at community health centers around the country who cannot afford commercial over the phone, video or face-to-face medical interpreting services. Undergraduate students who complete the Medical Spanish minor at UTPA and achieve national certification would serve as a corps of volunteer video, over-the-phone, and onsite interpreters for use by federally qualified health centers.
"We want to start in the Valley, but our goal is for it to be nationwide," said Pablos-Velez. "People don't know how important language is to actually bring about good health care. You are helping them (patients) to understand what the doctor wants them to do. Through this program we are trying to motivate the patients to also communicate with the doctor."
At the CGI U, they got to hear from Clinton, who was joined in a panel on the importance of public service by a diverse group of leaders, including former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright, recording artist Usher, who has established the New Look Foundation, and executive director of the Oruj Learning Center Sadiqa Basiri Saleem, who founded the girl's school in Afghanistan, among many other entrepreneurial icons. They talked about their public service work and gave the students some valuable advice.
"They told us how they got where they are, how to succeed, and where the students could look to for support, like foundations and other organizations," Correa said. "Usher told us that 'talent is universal but opportunity is not.' He said he didn't want to be remembered just as a singer but someone who has done something for the world."
Pablos-Velez and Correa described some of the successful projects they heard about while there including one by a young doctor who decided to build better restrooms in Mexico and the Panda Cycle, a creation of GWU students which aims to provide affordable and sustainable bamboo bikes to developing countries. Pablos-Velez and Correa said the reaction by other students to their commitment was favorable.
"A student from Harvard told me, 'Oh my god, that is so needed up north.' She said maybe you can tie yours into ours which involved working with minorities to try and reduce obesity," Pablos-Velez said.
On their last night there, Clinton participated in a question-and-answer session with the students and was also interviewed with some humorous results by Jon Stewart, political satirist and host of TV's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."
Correa, who also got to see some of D.C.'s historic sites on her first visit to the nation's capital, called the experience "awesome." She said it provided them with invaluable practical advice to better implement their project once they got home and a unique opportunity to develop a global network to rely on in the future.
Pablos-Velez said the exposure to so many diverse minds and ideas there broadened her way of thinking. But, she said, all the participants were connected by a common goal to make the world a better place and she plans to nurture the many connections she made.
"They are going to be your network to help you start achieving your goals. It's also good to be in contact with and have friends who have ambitions and goals because that gets transmitted in a way and makes you want to push further."