MACON — Mercer Service Scholars Chelsea Flieger and Garret McDowell were invited to attend the fifth annual Clinton Global Initiative University (GGIU) national leadership conference in Washington, D.C., this weekend. The conference will be held at George Washington University today through Sunday. The honor is based on their work to launch and enhance Mercer’s Local Engagement Against Poverty (LEAP) initiative.
“I am so excited to get to attend CGIU,” Flieger said. “It will be my second time attending the conference. The last time I went, I learned so much, largely from the example of other participants. The people who attend this conference are so inspiring, and it is incredible to see the organizations they have started and the things they have accomplished by the age of 21 or 22.”
Founded by former President Bill Clinton in 2007 as part of his Clinton Global Initiative, CGIU engages the next generation of leaders on college campuses worldwide. It is open to approximately 1,000 students from around the world who have shown leadership through various community projects. The 2012 CGIU conference gives students the opportunity to meet others with similar community goals and network with leaders throughout the weekend. The conference is arranged around various plenary, working and skill sessions, allowing participants to interact with one another and formulate partnerships. Speakers and program participants at the conference include Biz Stone, the co-founder of Twitter; Jon Stewart, host and executive producer of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart;” Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist; and a number of founding members of community service foundations, projects and funds.
To be eligible for the conference, students are required to propose their plan to influence the world in a positive way. Flieger and McDowell, both seniors, applied for the conference as a team. Flieger, along with several other Mercer Service Scholars, proposed LEAP in a commitment at CGIU in 2010. Together, the Service Scholars committed to inspire their fellow Mercer students to perform 10,000 hours of community service to alleviate poverty in the Macon community.
The LEAP initiative began as an eight-day Macon campus conference focused on educating the student body about poverty in Georgia and to encourage students to contribute volunteer hours to the community. The conference culminated in an inaugural LEAP Service Saturday with more than 200 volunteers. Service Saturdays proved to be such a success that they continued every other week of the semester with students volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, home repairs with Rebuilding Macon and delivering meals to the homeless with the Salvation Army, Rainbow House and Macon Rescue Mission.
Flieger and McDowell’s commitment for the 2012 conference focuses on a continuation of the LEAP initiative. The commitment includes several new events that are taking place this semester, including the first Spring Break for Service, increasing the number of LEAP Service Saturdays and holding a reading festival for schoolchildren.
“I’m most looking forward to the office hour sessions and the information sharing opportunities,” McDowell said. “I can’t wait to offer up the successes at Mercer for other people to use and to learn new things. The networking for this will be instrumental for the growth of the program.”
McDowell is a double major in environmental studies and leadership and community service with a minor in Christianity. He is also an active member of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, where he served as the philanthropy chair for 2011. McDowell has been inducted into Phi Eta Sigma honor society and Omicron Delta Kappa national leadership honor society. He serves as a columnist and staff writer for Mercer’s student-run newspaper, The Cluster, and also has worked in the Academic Resource Center, helping maintain a nightly tutoring center for Mercer students.
Flieger, the service project manager for the LEAP Initiative, is majoring in leadership and community service with minors in Spanish and education. She is an active member of Alpha Delta Pi Sorority. She is also a member of Phi Eta Sigma, Omicron Delta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi Honor Societies. She is a Mercer University Peer Advisor, helping coordinate new student orientations and also serves as a family head and member of the Orientation Advisory Committee. She has worked for the University Office of Admissions since August 2008 and has served as the director of telecounseling since May 2010.
“When I left CGIU in 2010, I was inspired by my peers and wanted to take on the world,” Flieger said. “This conference makes you realize that it doesn’t matter if you are only 22 years old, you can make a real and tangible difference in the lives of a community. All it takes is a great idea and a lot of hard work. I hope to take back some more great ideas from this conference, as well as to meet other participants who share my passion for service.”
About Mercer University
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University enrolls more than 8,300 students in 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies – on major campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah and at four regional academic centers across the state. Mercer is affiliated with four teaching hospitals — Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah, the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, and The Medical Center and St. Francis Hospital in Columbus — and has educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. The University operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer is the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. www.mercer.edu
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