To Mentor an Orphanage in the Dominican Republic

Clinton Global Initiative University helped Kelsey Uhl ’15 shape her group’s mission.

Kelsey Uhl '15 and Katrina Zdanowicz '15 share a moment with children in the Dominican Republic. Kelsey Uhl '15 and Katrina Zdanowicz '15 share a moment with children in the Dominican Republic. While attending the recent Clinton Global Initiative University in Phoenix, Kelsey Uhl ’15 found inspiration and advice on how she and her team can further their mission in the coming months.

Television personality Jimmy Kimmel, former President Bill Clinton, former first lady, senator and secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton, and special correspondent for NBC News Chelsea Clinton take the stage at CGIU. Television personality Jimmy Kimmel, former President Bill Clinton, former first lady, senator and secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton, and special correspondent for NBC News Chelsea Clinton take the stage at CGIU. Uhl was one of 10 Rollins students attending meetings that promote and support student efforts at social entrepreneurship events around the world. More than 1,000 college students from 300 universities and 80 countries attended. Acceptance at the three-day event is competitive and requires participants to make a “commitment” to a well-planned project addressing some of the world’s critical needs.

“It really was inspiring and comforting to see so many people likeminded people,” says Uhl, who is majoring in political science. “It’s good to hear their stories and how they successfully overcame problems.”

Uhl is a founder of 4Girls, a group comprised of Rollins students who are working to design programs to benefit a small orphanage in the Monte Cristi, Dominican Republic. Their project, 4Girls, is aimed at giving the girls in the orphanage skills they need and the confidence needed to pursue goals that might seem remote today.

The idea stemmed from their own discussions. “We thought about who has given us the backing and confidence to get us to where we are today, and we wanted to be able to help others, so they can raise their hands and ask hard questions,’ says Uhl, who is from Tampa.

Accompanying Uhl on a previous field study in the Dominican Republic were Emma-Lee Clinger ’15, Katrina Zdanowicz ’16 and Susie Richetti ’14.

Director of Social Innovation Chrissy Garton and Kelsey Uhl '15 at CGIU. Director of Social Innovation Chrissy Garton and Kelsey Uhl '15 at CGIU. Chrissy Garton, who is director of social innovation in the provost’s office, said Rollins was honored to have 10 students chosen to participate in the Clinton Global Initiative University. The annual event helps students turn their passion into practice.

“Caring about the world and changing it are very different,” says Garton, whose office provided financial support for Rollins students traveling to the conference. “We don’t just want them to be passionate. We want them to do something about it. We want them to be empowered and equipped.”

The founders of 4Girls are planning to return to the Dominican Republic this summer with a set of strategies, exercises, and discussions to help empower the young women at the Orphanage Hope of a Child in Monte Christi. The building can accommodate about 100 children, but it currently has funds to provide for only about a dozen, five of which are girls, ages 5 to 15.

Kelsey Uhl '15 plays with a child in the Dominican Republic. Kelsey Uhl '15 plays with a child in the Dominican Republic. The youngsters impressed Uhl with their spirited outlook, but the 15-year-old worried Uhl because of limited options. “I know she has ambitions,” Uhl says. “But I don’t think she has a tangible idea of what those possibilities would look like.”

Uhl said 4Girls hopes to provide the girls with tools that will allow them to help the next set of children who enter the orphanage. “They could be mentors to the next group.”

Speakers at the conference included, Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and their daughter, Chelsea. Also speaking were U.S. Senator John McCain and Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, both from Arizona, and Bill Drayton, who is chief executive officer of Ashoka, a network of social innovators.

The additional Rollins students attending the conference to pursue other projects were:

Rachel Denton ’16
Kara Russell ’16
Michelle Lanthorne ’16
Tori Linder ’14
Jorge Musa ’14
Trae Vaillant ’15
Shree Raj Shrestha ’17
Ashley Siana ’14
Holly Tanyhill ’14