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Three Students Chosen by Clinton Global Initiative Project

Three UCR Students Chosen by Clinton Global Initiative University

Students will tackle human rights issues in Latin America, education for former child laborers in India and health care in Brazil.

(February 20, 2008)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Three University of California, Riverside students have been chosen to participate in the inaugural meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative University in New Orleans March 14-16.

They are Daniel V. Polk, a senior history major with a minor in Spanish, from Morongo Valley; Samantha Wilson, a junior majoring in political science and global studies, from Moreno Valley; and Bryan Yeh, a senior psychology major with a minor in math.

The program is a new project of the Clinton Global Initiative and is designed to challenge college students and universities to tackle global problems with practical, innovative solutions. Former President Clinton established the CGI in 2005.

The UCR students will attend the three-day meeting at Tulane University, where participants will be asked to commit to a project that will make a difference or change lives.

Polk, 22, said he hopes to help coordinate human rights efforts in regions of economic inequality with the Southwestern United States and regions of Latin America, particularly central Mexico, where his research interests lie.

“My ultimate goal is to make a positive difference or change in issues affecting Latin America and its people, legal structures, resource allocation and inequality,” he said. “My interest in Latin American studies started with wanting to understand my ethnic roots and heritage,” said Polk, whose mother is Colombian. That developed into a research interest and political activism, he said.

A student in the University Honors Program for four years, Polk’s senior honors thesis focuses on Latino immigrant human rights issues in San Diego in the 1980s.

Polk is active in a number of organizations at UCR, among them: president and founder of the Latin American Student Association; vice president and co-founder of the Mexican American Political Association chapter at UCR; president of Students for Barack Obama; trip leader for Coalition of Students in Support of Orphans; and vice president of the Ballroom and Latin Dance Team.

He also is an intern for the journal Latin American Perspectives, mentors undergraduate students at The Learning Center and mentors undergraduate honors students. He is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa, Golden Key and Gamma Beta Phil honors societies.

Polk graduated from Yucca Valley High School.

Wilson, 20, who has been in the University Honors Program since 2005, said she looks forward to networking with other students who to make concrete social change.

She was an ASUCR senator in 2006-07, was co-director of Voice of Invisible Children at UCR, is a member of the California Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry board, and participated in Education Abroad in India from June to November 2007.

Wilson plans to raise enough money in California to endow scholarships through Activists for Social Alternatives to provide a free education for South Indian students who once were child laborers. She also is working on grant applications to create a leadership organization among these students and fund a visit for student leaders to an institution of higher education in the state of Tamil Nadu.

“I've been interested in India all my life, but fell absolutely head over heels for it after my study abroad program in India,” Wilson said. “While I was in India, I read my first book on microfinance and realized its potential to be a platform for social movements and social change as well as poverty alleviation. My upper division research in the Honors Program will also be on this topic.”

Wilson is a graduate of Canyon Springs High School in Moreno Valley.

Yeh, 22, is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society, is the founding chapter president of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and is a research associate in the Department of Bioengineering. He also is executive director of International Service And Global Impact, a nonprofit organization that promotes global awareness, volunteering abroad and the exploration of different cultures.

Yeh said he applied to CGI U to learn more about current issues in global health. "I have always been interested in the field of international medicine," he said, "particularly how providing health care can impact certain regions of the world where it is difficult to provide health care, either due to geography, political crisis, poverty or language barriers."

He hopes to raise $20,000 to help fund the building of a medical clinic in northeast Brazil, the poorest region in the country. He will spend eight weeks this summer as a volunteer with World Endeavors at a clinic in a rural town outside Sao Paulo. There he will study the Brazilian health care system and what is required to operate a rural medical clinic.

"In many rural areas, there is insufficient access to health care," Yeh said. "Brazil is the largest country in South America and houses one of the most diverse cultures in the world. Although Brazil is growing at an exponential rate economically, the wealth gap is still very wide."

Yeh is a graduate of Upland High School.
Daniel PolkEnlarge

Daniel Polk

Bryan YehEnlarge

Bryan Yeh

Samantha WilsonEnlarge

Samantha Wilson

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