CGI U@Duke: 2014 Student Commitments to Action

DDSphoto1Duke’s Office of Civic Engagement (DOCE) allocates $10,000 annually to fund Duke student Commitments to Action as part of the annual challenge sponsored by the Clinton Global Initiative University. Whether or not a student is selected to represent his or her Commitment at CGI U’s annual meeting, all who propose a Commitment to Action to CGI U are eligible to apply for DOCE funding.  Duke is committed to helping our students make social entrepreneurship an integral part of their educational experience.

What makes CGI U Commitments to Action so unique is that they are completely student-driven.  Several of our students have created their own companies, NGOs, and nonprofit organizations or partnered or joined with existing ones to fulfill their Commitments. Last September, we posted a blog featuring several of the student projects that received funding from the DOCE in 2014. One of the funded projects was Duke/Durham Saves, an initiative that fosters personal finance skills for Duke and Durham community members.

Jenna Garand and Steven Blaser received funding to support Duke/Durham Saves (DDS), a group on campus that aims to increase financial literacy within both the Duke and the Durham communities.  Among a group of thirteen members, they have launched many different initiatives on and off campus.  Most apparent to some Duke students is their regular House Course, in which they educate students on the importance of budgeting, saving, and negotiating salaries.  They also branch out into the greater Durham community, offering weekly volunteer opportunities.  At a local Boys and Girls Club, Brogden Middle School, and Northern High School, DDS members work with young students as part of a Core Math curriculum DDS developed to introduce personal finance skills.   Their goal is to help Duke students and Durham community members feel confident navigating their personal finance portfolio so that they can make educated decisions and plan for a better future.

Thanks to Jenna and Steven’s engagement, acquiring agency over one’s relationship to money has empowered students at Duke and Durham Public Schools. However, Jenna and her DDS crew ran into some pitfalls while trying to maintain a relationship with the Durham community. Jenna and Steven were gone abroad for a semester, and most of their relationships with the Durham community needed to be reestablished upon their return. “Our Duke branch of DDS is going a little better than our Durham side, since it didn’t require relationships to be maintained,” reported Jenna. Organizing a strong hold on their Durham connection taught them many crucial lessons about leadership, like who will delegate responsibilities and who will take action. So far, they’ve learned that focusing on fewer things and executing them well is much better than “trying to put a foot in everything.”  Reflecting on this experience, Jenna and Steven are prepared to make transformative changes in the upcoming year.  Recruiting more passionate individuals, training the next class of students to continue teaching their annual House Course, collaborating with several community organizations (such as Brogden, Northern, and the Boys & Girls club), and developing a more consistent guest speaker schedule so that time is maximized.  Ensuring that individuals in the Duke and Durham communities fully understand personal finance so that they can make educated decisions and plan for better futures is just the beginning.  Jenna and Steven are committed to perfecting their education model so that this important initiative becomes an indispensable part of the Duke curriculum and Durham community.