Clinton Global Initiative Inspires Two UT Social Entrepreneurs

Commitments to Action include windmills and dancing

Published: Apr 12, 2011
Camila Moreno ’14, a communication major who wants to provide inexpensive dance lessons to children with Down syndrome both in Tampa and her native Ecuador, said she enjoyed meeting other students from around the world.
Camila Moreno ’14, a communication major who wants to provide inexpensive dance lessons to children with Down syndrome both in Tampa and her native Ecuador, said she enjoyed meeting other students from around the world.
Having lunch with former President Bill Clinton was a special moment for Christine Merry ’11. So was volunteering at a California food bank shoulder-to-shoulder with actresses Mandy Moore and Drew Barrymore.

But the highlight for Merry, who attended the 2011 Clinton Global Initiative University held in San Diego the first week of April, was identifying with another young social entrepreneur who created a soccer ball that generates and stores electricity. After game play, cell phones and LED flashlights can be plugged into co-founder Jessica Matthews’ sOccket ball, providing a cheap and accessible source of electricity for developing communities.

“She reminds me a lot of myself,” said Merry, a management and finance double major. “She didn’t know how to build her idea, like me with my windmills, but she found the right people to make it happen.”

Merry plans to construct windmills in Ghana, providing an inexpensive source of electricity for charging cell phones. Villagers now pay high fees to people who own cars so that they can charge their electronics with their engines.

Merry is taking Kevin Fridy’s Community-Based Development Projects in Ghana course this semester, which culminates in a three-week trip to Ghana in May, when she hopes to introduce her prototype and build one permanent windmill with all local supplies. She hopes the project will be sustainable, and she plans to teach others how to construct their own windmills.

This commitment to action is one of the outcomes of the four-day conference, an offshoot of the Clinton Global Initiative. Merry’s experience at the Clinton Global Initiative University included lots of networking and inspiration from the other 1,100 presenters and attendees who represented 90 countries.

“A lot the people there were like the next Facebook people,” said Merry, a PEACE volunteer coordinator and a Student Government senator. “I don’t think I’m one of those, but in my own way I’d like to be able to reach out to other African countries if my Ghana trip goes well.”

The University of Tampa was represented well at the conference with not one but two participants chosen from thousands of applicants. Joining Merry was Camila Moreno ’14, a communication major who wants to provide inexpensive dance lessons to children with Down syndrome both in Tampa and her native Ecuador.

“For me, dancing makes me really happy. It’s a meditation, and it takes out my energy,” said Moreno who volunteered with the Best Buddies program in high school, becoming a mentor to Claudia, a young woman with Down syndrome. “I want to provide a space for children to be really happy and proud of themselves, to work on patience and to be a support for them.”

Through her research Moreno found that dancing can help increase coordination and develop thinking skills. Her time at the Clinton Global Initiative University inspired her, just as she hopes to inspire children.

“The conference motivated me even more,” Moreno said. “Everyone was so encouraging and positive that anything is possible.”


Jamie Pilarczyk, Web Writer
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