HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - This is a news release from The University of Southern Mississippi.
Kristen Dupard wrapped up her spring semester and looks back at an an amazing time in her life.
When she got on a plane in New Orleans in early spring, Dupard knew she was in for an exciting four days. But she had no idea exactly how exciting. She traveled to Miami for the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida.
Dupard, a junior biochemistry major at The University of Southern Mississippi and New Orleans native, spent two weeks working with the likes of former President Bill Clinton and his daughter Chelsea, and Dr. Vivek Murthy, Surgeon General of the United States while attending the Clinton Global Initiative University.
"It was an experience of a lifetime, said Dupard. "They only accept 1,000 students from around the world. We came together and instead of just talking about how we as young people have the potential to make a difference, we actually went out into the community to do that."
Dupard says the students come together to discuss global issues ranging from poverty, women's rights, clean water supply, human rights, and many other issues. "This event gathered student leaders from around the world who could truly make a difference and it allowed us to interact and exchange achievable ideas that offered solutions to real-world problems."
Dupard says she attended networking sessions, did a day of community service with the Clintons, and was able to meet one of her role models.
"I met Dr. Vivek Murthy, Surgeon General of the U.S. I have wanted to be surgeon general for all of my life; it is my dream job," says Dupard. "I told him, most people dream of being president, but I always dreamt of being Surgeon General and he said, 'Maybe some day I'll be calling you Surgeon General.'"
Dupard says meeting Murthy was overwhelming, "I couldn't believe I was able to meet someone whose job I want to take some day."
Dupard has set high goals for herself and they do not stop with becoming Surgeon General. "I also met Dr. Donna Shalala, former Secretary of Health and Human Services. She is a force to be reckoned with. I actually hope to hold both seats some day, Surgeon General and Secretary of Health and Human Services."
Dupard was also able to meet the program's namesake and made quite an impression. "The initiative I am working on with my USM student colleague Jeremy Moore is called Empower the, Vote Save the Vote. It seeks to empower the voices of young adults through the art of voting, subsequently, saving the vision of America's future. President Clinton mentioned our initiative 'Empower the vote, save the vote' in his closing remarks. Out of 10,000 initiatives, he mentioned ours."
Dupard was able to do some community service side-by-side with Clinton, painting bricks in a local neighborhood. "When President Clinton and I were sitting down, painting the brick, it was my moment. I was in the presence of a former President. He was telling me how important the day of service was and how proud he was of us," she said. "That was so awesome. It was a moment not for a selfie, but for me to listen to him and remember service was the mission of the Clinton Global Initiative University."
Dupard says the biggest takeaway from the event is that she, and others, can really make a difference. "I think so many times in college we get tunnel vision. I know it is optimistic and looking so far ahead, but we can do it.
"One of my favorite quotes is by Robin Roberts, 'Dream big, focus small.' CGI U allowed me to focus small," she says, "We are the next generation of policy makers and the only way to see change on a large scale and make a difference is to do work in our own communities that need that change.
"Overall, this is a blessing and experience of a lifetime. I know being accepted into CGIU wouldn't have been possible if it wasn't for the support of my Southern Miss family."