In 2015, the United Nations (UN) adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Its mission is to mobilize countries to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change.
To support the initiative, the UN Academic Impact Program joined forces with Millennium Campus Network to create the Millennium Fellowship. The semester-long leadership development program provides students the training, networking opportunities and recognition needed to launch projects advancing the SDGs on their campus and in their local communities.
Lynn University was selected this fall as one of 30 global host institutions. Eight students were selected as Millennium Fellows to take on sustainability projects:
- Organize socially-conscious campus leaders: Alberto Gomez and Ivar Guerrero
- Ban plastic straws: Raymond Francois, Daniel Kaleta and Paul Ristuccia
- Support education in Rwanda: Nadeem Abu Hijleh, Faith Thomas and Xiara Del Valle
Building social impact leaders on campus
Lynn fellows identified causes that they were passionate about and divided into project teams to develop initiatives that addressed these challenges.
Gomez and Guerrero launched the Social Impact Leadership Organization (SILO), through the Social Impact Lab, to create a collaborative environment for students to share their interests in social impact, explore venture ideas, develop skills in the field and learn from guest speakers. SILO became an official student organization with over 30 club members this month.
Banning plastic straws
Another project focused on replacing the plastic straws on campus through an initiative with Lynn dining partner Sodexo.
A 2016 study by the World Economic Forum, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and McKinsey and Company found that 32 percent of the 78 million tons of plastic packaging produced annually is leaked into the ocean. If the pattern continues, they estimated there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050.
Francois, Kaleta and Ristuccia launched an advocacy campaign, “Banning the straw that broke mother nature’s back.” The group worked with Sodexo to substitute plastics straws with compostable, non-petroleum based or paper straws beginning November 2018. Students from the team could be seen across campus wearing their “Lynn-ja Turtle” costumes and encouraging students to be conscious of the adverse impact of plastic straws on the environment.
“Being able to educate, engage and inspire students at Lynn to live more sustainable lifestyles was an impactful part of this experience for me,” said Francois. “Seeing students realize how much plastic waste affects the environment and the role they can play in it was life-changing.”
Access to education for children in Rwanda
Abu Hijleh, Del Valle and Thomas launched “It’s H.E.R Business” to upcycle denim jackets to support access to education in Rwanda. The team used their fashion expertise and got to work, working with Lynn fashion students to design jackets for their first trunk show in November. Event ticket sales were donated to Red Rocks Rwanda, a social enterprise focused on responsible tourism.
“Being a part of the Millennium Fellowship community allowed me to have the support and access numerous resources while working on my project,” shared Del Valle. “At first it was a little daunting selecting a project, but when my team and I discovered where our passions intersected, we discovered the spark.”