Students from NYU and St. John’s University competed to create a social impact in their local communities by solving social and environmental dilemmas at the Sila Connection’s annual conference on April 2 and 3.
Founded by NYU Abu Dhabi students, Sila Connection is a student-run organization that franchises university conferences to solve a local community’s most pressing challenges. Sila was developed as a platform to bring together students from regional universities to work on innovative solutions to concerns including sustainability efforts and socio-economic disparities. Sila has now extended its global outreach to include conferences at NYU’s New York and Shanghai campuses.
Each year the Sila organizing board recruits students interested in social entrepreneurship and gives them an opportunity to work together on the conference’s predetermined topic. This year, the students’ projects tackled issues concerning health and education in New York City.
The competition involved a number of working professionals, who participated in the process as either advisors aiding the groups in the making of their proposals, or served as judges or keynote speakers. This year’s professionals included Merrin Jenkins from the nonprofit Akilah Institute, Professor Paul C. Light from NYU Wagner, Michaela Bethune Head of Campaigns at DoSomething.org, Paul Bazakos, a practicing chiropractor in New York City and Leila Vujosevic, the managing principal of OMNI architects.
St. John’s junior and member from this year’s winning team Kartik Varshney said the conference helps students foster a creative mindset.
“The Sila connection conference was an insightful two day competition,” Varshney said. “It was a great opportunity to bring to light some innovative ideas collaborating with different students on a sustainability development project. “
On the last day of the conference, delegates presented their ideas in front of a board of three judges. Presentations for possible social impact campaigns varied from NYU distributing free feminine hygiene products to a program addressing mental health awareness in classrooms.
The Happiness Advantage group won this year’s conference and took home the $2,500 prize to fund their proposal of a “Companion Campaign” program. The campaign exposes children to the struggles of loneliness facing senior citizens while providing students across New York City schools with an opportunity for community service.
Tandon sophomore and Happiness Advantage team member Jeen Snidvongs said the team’s idea is to create meaningful relationships between senior citizens and children through after school programs.
“Studies have shown that senior citizens are at a higher risk of dying because they feel lonely, while at the other end of the life spectrum, children are suffering because schools are being forced to cut arts, music and other programs,” Snidvongs said. “We are planning after school programs in the arts and music fields that both seniors and kids can participate in in order to foster relationships which can be beneficial to both parties.”
All in all, Snidvongs said Sila Connection was a great opportunity to connect with talented peers and mentors.
“It’s important to take that crucial first step into the world of social impact and Sila Connection provided the perfect channel to make that happen,” Snidvongs said.
Email Ludovica Grieco at [email protected]