On March 25, the Youth4SDGs campaign hosted a webinar on the role of Role of Science, Technology, Innovation & Data in Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
My experience as a Millennium Fellow has been one of partnerships above paternalism. In every endeavor I have undertaken thus far in my fellowship at the Millennium Campus Network (MCN), I entered knowing that I was working within dynamic collaborations, and with tremendous support from powerful, capable allies.
Timothy Baiya Michael is one of our incredible Remote Fellows. He is from the Kaduna State in Nigeria, specifically the Bajju tribe. Interested in engineering and technological innovation, Timothy holds a degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Kaduna Polytechnic Institute. He is currently enrolled at the Federal University of Technology in Nigeria studying Industrial and Technology Education.
Timothy is a natural leader as he as served as the President of the Industrial and Technology Education Students Association and the Assistant General Secretary of the Kaduna State Students Association (Futminna Chapter), among others. When matriculating at the Federal University of Technology, Timothy wanted further engagement with student leadership, particularly in organizations dedicated to fostering new leaders. Future Generex became the perfect organization for him, as it is built around the ideals of student innovation, empowerment, and leadership, much like MCN. Timothy is now the President of this organization, and hopes to bring it to new heights in the upcoming year.
By Beth He
UN Sustainable Development Goal #4: Ensure quality education for all and promote life long learning.
Prior to beginning undergraduate studies at Columbia University, Amelia Colban had been immersed in various different cultures. She grew up in Norway, and as a teenager, avidly traveled Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, and Spain. Intrigued by Wanderlust, she realized “that ‘culture’ existed in more forms that [she] could be aware of, both internationally and in the nuances of individual identities within any geographic confines.” Such conceptualization of cultural definitions attracted Amelia to an American university education because wanted to “engage worldly concepts from a [similar] theoretical, but intellectually immediate, approach.” Columbia gave her the opportunity to not only be surrounded by diverse individuals with interesting backgrounds, but also the thought-provoking education of“learning” by way of uncomfortable, but necessary conversations.
Driven by exploration and intellectual growth, Amelia has fully integrated herself in the world of academia. Such enthusiasm for trying everything has lead her to discovering a wide range of subjects from international human rights to the history of crime and policing in the U.S.
First Generation Low Income Partnership (FLIP) at Columbia became a large part of her life through a friend. As Amelia remembers, “I overheard someone I knew mentions ‘students who have experienced homelessness.’” Homelessness? Here? At Columbia? An elite Ivy League school? It was the first time she had ever heard “homelessness” in the Columbia culture, in their vernacular. Amelia became quickly engaged in FLIP as homelessness turned out to be a more common than expected at Columbia, but often hidden in the shadows.
FLIP at Columbia was conceived through the realization of the marginalized, often invisible, issues of homelessness, food insecurity, and feelings of misplacement in an elite, sometimes privileged environment, common amongst first-generation and low-income students. Amelia now serves as the treasurer of FLIP Columbia and is among the founders of FLIP National, whose mission is to reach many more U.S. university campuses. Through bringing these issues to light and encouraging an open dialogue, FLIP hopes to redirect the conversation away from stigmatizing financial hardship to fostering resources and a community of empowerment to first generation and low-income students.
Since its inception, FLIP at Columbia has received tremendous support from the university, alumni, and other supporters from gaining national attention. With this, Amelia plans on helping FLIP at Columbia grow to include more students in the conversation, creating a more aware, open, and respectful campus environment.
Through each member, FLIP at Columbia is creating a revitalized community of empowered students to “advocate for and create resources for an often marginalized group and increase the consciousness of the specific challenges that emerge on an institutional and campus wide level.” They have implemented incredible projects that demonstrate the mission, value, and impacts of the organization in providing previously unmanaged, often inaccessible, resources.
Food Insecurity Initiatives: New York is Expensive! Columbia University (CU) Meal Share, a dining hall swipes-sharing platform, was one of FLIP's earliest initiatives. It quickly gained a lot of traction and the student group recently expanded it into a three-pronged system. Now, CU Meal Share is accompanied by the Emergency Meal Fund, a swipes-bank program operated by Columbia Dining Services, as well as a mobile app, Swipes, that connects students in various dining halls with students who need access.
Columbia University Class Confessions: CUCC is a social media forum in which students can anonymously share their experiences and challenges. These emotionally stirring confessions have educated the student body and the administration alike about complicated facets of low-income students' issues so they are better equipped to address them. Many students have written how food insecurity, homelessness, imposter syndrome, illegal work, and a lack of institutional support is a part of the reality they live in order to make it through Columbia. The content from this page has sparked extensive media coverage as well as extended conversations on campus between students, administrators, and faculty.
Textbook Lending library: FLIP at Columbia collected over a thousand commonly required textbooks through a book drive to then redistribute otherwise expensive reading materials.
Coat Drive: Collection and redistribution of high-quality winter coats to students who have yet to acquire the necessary outerwear for living in the Northeast.
Q-FLIP: This is a co-sponsored program by QuestBridge and FLIP at Columbia. It pairs incoming students from underrepresented socioeconomic backgrounds with more seasoned peers to help them navigate struggles related to being first-gen/low-income, including financial restrictions, feeling out of place (imposter syndrome), and feeling underprepared by their (relative to Columbia) nontraditional academic backgrounds. Though in its first year, the program's enrollment is already in the hundreds.
Homelessness Initiative: This program just launched to connect students in need of housing for a time period with others who have extra space, while we work with the school to implement institutional housing security protocols. (Barnard, Columbia's sister school, closes dormitories during winter break. Students who cannot afford to go home, or who do not have a home to return to, lack affordable housing options between semesters. This has been the focus of the initiative in its first few days.)
Being a college student is stressful enough; no student should have to worry about a finding a safe place to sleep. Directly connected to the UN’s 4th Sustainable Development Goal, everyone should have the opportunity for quality education without worrying about basic necessities.
Amelia became an MCN Fellow because she was “enthralled by the prospect of engaging in a dialogue with other students and with experts advocating for equal opportunity in higher education.” With the initiation and development of FLIP National, the MCN Fellowship has given Amelia the platform for dialogue about social issues and the formulated the skills to be a better leader. She is more encouraged and determined than ever to resolve inequality within institutions of higher education for years to come.
Interested in donating? Want to learn more about FLIP at Columbia? Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Over the past three years, countless negotiations, consultations, and conferences have taken place - culminating with the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit that saw all 193-member states adopt, celebrate, and make commitments to the new Sustainable Agenda for 2030. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are a revitalized commitment to build from the Millennium Development Goals by “leaving no one behind” and closing the gap of inequity, locally and globally by engaging everyone, everywhere. The SDGs are integrated and indivisible, balancing the 3 dimensions of sustainable development: economic, social & environmental - establishing a framework for development over the next 15 years.
However, that was the easy part. Talking is much easier than actions and actions call for accountability. We first need to realize that the outcome of our actions will not be driven by the “world we want”, but rather the “world we deserve.” In order to contextualize the importance of youth action, it was an honor to hear insights from speakers in various organizations mobilizing opportunities for young people at the grassroots, national, and international level at the online global forum we hosted last week. These include Jasmin Burgermeister (German Youth Delegate on Sustainable Development), Marwan Bishtawi (Associate Coordinator, Pax Romana & ICMYO), Roxanne Moore (UN Major Group for Children & Youth, Interim Focal Point for Youth Gateway) and Kathy Zhang (Sustainable Development Solutions Youth Network, SDSN-Y).
An interesting point of discussion was that the youth need to be equipped with the skills, knowledge, and capacities to truly make change. Their ambition and potential needs to be met with tools such as technology and innovation to be turned into meaningful contributions to society in order to reach the SDGs. This is especially true when the youth generation, comprising 40-50% of the world’s population, is globally dispersed and comprised of individuals with complementary skills. Bringing down the SDGs to the local level is also crucial to contextualize their personal significance to each individual, giving each person a reason and determination for working towards achieving the goals that will be most constructive and relevant to their needs. Personalizing the goals at the local level is essential to galvanize resilient change, therefore there should be greater institutional support at all levels to provide both the knowledge to bring about change, resources to maintain and scale positive change in society, and mechanisms for reporting impact. Community-based impact assessments are essential for determining people’s priorities, while providing opportunities to share best practices in order to overcome barriers to progress.
As highlighted by one of our speakers during the video conference, an element of humility must be preserved to better help each other out, while maintaining professionalism when doing work at the local level. Such a mindset will propel us towards maintaining human-centered intentions throughout our work. We finished by discussing commitments we can each make, within our own capacities, to spread awareness on the SDGs and contribute to them locally. We can each voice our opinion, advocate, write policy, and engage in activities related to the thematic areas we are most passionate about. There is no better time than “now”, with a plethora of youth organizations accessible to build on already existing structures. These include, among others, the youth platforms mentioned by our guest speakers - Youth Gateway (the Global Youth Partnership for the SDGs), the UN Major Group for Children & Youth (UN MGCY), Pax Romana (a part of the International Coordination Meeting of Youth Organizations - ICMYO), and the Sustainable Development Solutions Youth Network (SDSN-Y).
Within #Youth4SDGs, we are currently two weeks into the #17weeks17goals social media campaign, where we feature an overview, youth contributions, and youth organizations related to a specific SDG each week. We also are in the process of developing a Community Ambassador Program, to bring this global campaign to the local level. We each have the potential to champion youth action in your community - let’s seize the opportunity together, so don’t hesitate to contact us for more information.
#Youth4SDGs is a youth-led campaign meant to empower and connect young people with existing opportunities to meaningfully engage in sustainable development activities. We want youth to identify-match-engage-develop-sustain their passions into action by linking them to already established youth engagement platforms to fulfill our generational responsibility. Learn more by following us here on Facebook and sign up to join the next forum!