Students, Faculty to Bring Plans for Social Action to Clinton Global Initiative University

Portraits of Maria Castaneda Soria ’18, Jasmine Rashid ’18, Denise Crossan, Seimi Park '20

Maria Castaneda Soria ’18, Jasmine Rashid ’18, Denise Crossan, and Seimi Park '20.

 

A team of Swarthmore students and faculty is attending the Clinton Global Initiative University annual meeting this weekend in Boston, adding voice and vision to a national movement to address social problems.

The students — Jasmine Rashid ’18, Maria Castaneda Soria ’18, and Seimi Park '20 — will attend a series of talks, and two of them will share Commitment to Action projects with more than 1,000 peers and policy experts from around the country.

“This event puts our students center stage in a global conversation with like-minded, committed, and passionate students who are developing solutions for some of the world’s most intractable social problems,” says Denise Crossan, Eugene M. Lang Visiting Professor for Issues in Social Change, who is joining the students.

“It's my privilege to be able to walk with them and help their ideas for social change take shape and grow,” Crossan adds, “building networks, attracting resources, and absorbing the learning along the journey.”

Held by Northeastern University and in its 10th year, the Clinton Global Initiative University Meeting offers an opportunity to “turn ideas into action to address hurricane and disaster response, the opioid epidemic, relief for refugees and displaced persons, violence against women, and more.”

Castaneda Soria and Park will present Commitment to Action projects — plans for addressing a significant social challenge — in the category of peace and human rights.

Castaneda Soria's project, which she will work on as a Lang Opportunity Scholar, is “Philadelphia Community Resistance Zones: Expanding Sanctuary for All.” Her mission is to teach every person in South Philadelphia neighborhoods how to defend themselves and their neighbors through door knocking, information sharing, and know-your-rights training.

"This project shows a commitment to build concrete mutual, neighborly relationships among people in a neighborhood," writes Castaneda Soria, a Spanish and peace & conflict studies special major whose family migrated to North Carolina when she was three, in her Commitment to Action. "This means that neighborhood members commit to protecting and standing by their immigrant neighbors in the face of discrimination. They can show their support as a safe home that supports a welcoming neighborhood for immigrants by placing a human rights sign (that we will be creating) on their door or window. This project reflects my belief that, through community organizing led by community members, we can empower people to be agents of change in their own communities."

For her commitment, Park will mobilize youth — particularly those who identify as female — to explore journalism and investigative reporting through "The Free Press Insititute." The seeds for her project were planted when she sat in on a Philadelphia Inquirer news meeting and noticed that the attendees included 12 men and one woman.

“Diversity in the newsroom is a huge problem” and objective reporting imperative, writes Park, a Virginia Beach, Va., native studying economics, political science, and peace & conflict studies. “The Free Press Institute will hold developmental workshops and training programs to educate those who are traditionally left out of the newsroom.”

The organization will partner with local schools in nearby Chester, Pa., a city known for huge gaps in access to education and economic mobility. It hopes to work with over 100 students in 24 months to bring diversity to the field of journalism and “instill a curriculum of fair, honest, and objective reporting.”

Rashid, a peace & conflicts studies special major from Oyster Bay, N.Y., will attend the meeting to learn more about other students' initiatives across the world and to find opportunities for other Swarthmore students.

"I'm interested in impact investing," she says, "and serving as an on-campus resource for students to help conceptualize, pursue, and fund initiatives related to social good around the world."

Among their extracurriculars at Swarthmore, Rashid is an associate for art and culture for social action with the Lang Center for Civic & Social Responsibility and editor-in-chief of Visibility Magazine; Castaneda Soria is a Mellon Mays Fellow and a co-founder of the undocumented student support group; and Park is a diversity peer advisor and a SwatTank participant.

From Friday through Sunday, they will engage with leading experts, advocates, and innovators in major plenary and smaller, topic-based sessions on issues facing young people and the world today.

“Experiences like this amplify the learning for students and allow them to fast track their ability to create social change, within our community and the world,” says Crossan. “Their opportunities are boundless.”

Learn about Swarthmore’s impact on the local and global community at lifechanging.swarthmore.edu.