Guest post: My summer at the Clinton Foundation

Gayle Powell is a junior at Duke, double-majoring in Public Policy and History.

When I received a call from the Clinton Foundation in late April offering me a spot in their internship program, it was a challenge to keep my cool. Upon hanging up the phone, I did what is natural to do when you get an internship at the nonprofit of your dreams: I jumped up and down like a crazy person in a fit of excitement and then called my parents, who were nothing short of ecstatic to hear the news.

Working at the Clinton Foundation this past summer was an incredible experience. Each day I was surrounded by a team of inspiring people who have committed their lives to bettering the quality of life of people worldwide. While New York City is far from where many of the Foundation’s projects are being carried out, the passion to make change is very present throughout the office and the effect of the work being done on the ground is sincerely felt.

In addition to gaining experience through my daily responsibilities, the internship program offered me the opportunity to attend a number of skill-building workshops and networking opportunities with highly experienced people in the public and private sectors. Moreover, the open and encouraging atmosphere of the Foundation allowed me to speak with employees who have had experiences I am interested in or am considering for my future.

The Clinton Foundation has continued to expand its reach and impact over the years and is now implementing a number of initiatives and programs, each developed to tackle a different global problem. However, during my time at the Foundation I worked specifically for the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) department. CGI U offers college students a space to discuss and develop innovative solutions to pressing global challenges. Each student who applies to attend is required to create a Commitment to Action: a specific, new, and measurable plan to address a problem they see in their community or somewhere in the world. Working on this team, I was inspired daily by the students my age who were quite literally saving the world.

I now have every intention and desire to attend CGI U in 2015 and would encourage all Duke students to pursue this opportunity to make a change, network with other likeminded students and professionals and expose themselves to global issues and possible ways of confronting them. CGI U offers us the chance to become part of a community of the next generation of leaders, a group of students who are proving that young people have the power to make a significant impact.

In terms of advice on applying, I would keep a few things in mind. First of all, start small! It is in our nature as overambitious Duke students to try and overachieve in all that we do, but in the context of developing a Commitment to Action the more specific ones will likely be more successful. Remember, you can always scale up once your pilot project proves to be meaningful. I would also say to apply early. And most importantly, be innovative! Think about what hasn’t been done or a place that has problems that haven’t received much attention. How many nineteen year-olds can provide light to communities in Africa by developing a soccer ball that harnesses kinetic energy with every kick to it?

My first two years at Duke have taught me that no challenge is too big, no goal is too far-reaching, and no opportunity is unattainable. We were selected to attend Duke because the people that read our applications saw within us a potential to change the world for the better and a commitment to be the best we can be everyday. So are you ready to make Duke proud? Take a moment today, reflect on how your skills and interests can make a tangible change and develop an actionable plan to implement.