Sophomore Embraces Risk and Reward at Oglethorpe

Mon Baroi '15

If you looked at the list of colleges I considered going to, Oglethorpe was number eight…out of a list of eight that included St. John’s University, Gonzaga University, Wabash College, Guilford College and Earlham College. I chose to come to Oglethorpe because of its proximity to Atlanta and its small classes. And, living up to its motto, Oglethorpe has helped me figure out how to make a life, make a living, and make a difference in society.

When I came to Oglethorpe my freshman year, all I wanted to do was “fast-forward” through the next four years. I wasn’t expecting to begin the process of starting a nonprofit called Oglethorpe’s Tiny Homes, and to work at Pegasus Creative, an on-campus student communications agency.

Two friends and I were sitting around a table during lunch, and after telling them that I wanted to build prototype tiny house that was sustainable, their response shocked me: “Yeah,” they said, “Let’s do it. We can help!” We went to the university administration about our idea and they asked us how they could help us. Oglethorpe shocked me with its spirit of encouragement.

Mon, Cartrez Wilson '15 and Jacob Tadych '14 discuss the Oglethorpe Tiny Homes project.

Although I knew that I wanted to build a house, and had an idea of how it would look, I was lost on what purpose the house would serve. Some of my classes in my major (politics) and minor (nonprofit management) actually helped me realize the purpose of Oglethorpe’s Tiny Homes.

It’s not about building houses, but rather, reinventing the philosophy and people’s perception of what a house should be. One of my politics classes, “New American City,” was focused on the political history of the city of Atlanta. Without this class, I would not have understood the dire need for affordable housing in Atlanta. Many of my politics classes have helped me understand who gets what, when and how in society. Oglethorpe’s Tiny Homes is all about creating affordable homes that increase people’s self worth without jeopardizing their net worth.

Mon with fellow Pegasus Creative member Caitlyn Mitchell '13

One of the most important things I have learned at Oglethorpe is that if you want to make a difference you must take risks and not be afraid of failure. Working at Pegasus Creative, Oglethorpe’s student communications agency, has helped me get better at taking risks and learning from my mistakes. At Pegasus, you are given responsibilities and tasks that the whole Oglethorpe community (and everyone else) can see and be affected by it. For example, I have helped build websites for Oglethorpe that potential students and current students will use. My responsibilities and the risks I’ve taken at Pegasus have helped me not be as afraid of failure.

Coming to Oglethorpe has helped me figure out how I want to live and what I want to do.  Looks like my lucky number is eight.

Editor’s note: Both Mon Baroi ’15 and Jacob Tadych ’14 were recently selected to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University conference in recognition of the Oglethorpe Tiny Homes project. Read about it here.

Clinton Global Initiative: A Chance to Change the World

Do you want to change the world?  Here’s a place to start….

Last October, Awet Woldegebriel ’14 submitted an application to attend the fifth annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U), launched in 2007 by President Clinton to engage the next generation of leaders on college campuses around the world to turn ideas into action. CGI U builds on the successful model of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), which brings together world leaders to take action on global challenges.

Awet’s passion and commitment, coupled with his story of an early life as a refugee, stood out. He was not only invited to attend, but asked to be a speaker.

Awet was welcomed to the stage by The Daily Show‘s Jon Stewart, which he says was “a true honor.”  During his speech, he talked about his nonprofit Knowledge Aid, which gathers and ships books from the United States to libraries in Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Kenya. “The initiative,” he explained, “is driven by an old but still widely referred to proverb that states: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

The goal of Knowledge Aid is to make aid sustainable and to offer children the chance to enjoy their childhood through books. Awet, who still has memories of the devastation he faced in war-torn Ethiopia and his home country of Eritrea, was able to regain some of his lost childhood through reading books by Dr. Seuss.

“They made me laugh, they made me silly, they made me imagine what a full childhood would have been like,” he says. “And that is why my initiative is so important to me… whatever your initiative, make sure it does justice and represents the passion you have for it.”

Thanks to Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), Awet was able to meet and gain support for Knowledge Aid from many influential people, including former journalist Amanda Lindhout, musician Hugo Levy, supermodels Christie Brinkley and Anna Maria Lewiarz, and Argentinian Education Minister Esteban Bullrich.  His facebook page for Knowledge Aid, which had 147 “likes” before the conference, now has over 2200.

Awet, who is now a CGI ambassador and recruiter, will be co-hosting an informational meeting with President Larry Schall on Monday, October 22, from 7:00-8:00 p.m. in Lupton Auditorium.

“We want to encourage more Oglethorpe students to take part in the conference and also grow their ideas,” said Awet. “You (will) have access to the people you don’t have access to, so your ideas can expand and grow through CGI. We will help you to accomplish those ideas and initiatives.”

If you’re interested  in nonprofit work, social enterprise, or in giving back—then this meeting is for you! Come learn more about CGI’s purpose, benefits, and how you might get the chance to attend the next CGI meeting…and learn how you can propel your ideas and make a difference.