Students Shift Goals to Help Others

Cynthia Nnagboro, Milka Derisma and Kelly Merrill Jr., at the CGIU conference

Milka Derisma and her team, Cynthia Nnagboro and Kelly Merrill Jr., are all completing their master’s degrees in the Nicholson School of Communication, while simultaneously working to enact change in their community—starting with local college students.

They created an initiative, BYG (Build Your Goals) Shift, focused on helping students transfer from two-year community colleges to four-year programs, particularly at large schools like UCF. The CEO of their team, Derisma, was inspired by her own struggles during her transition to the University of Central Florida.

“She experienced what is known as ‘transfer shock,’ and wanted to limit this among other students,” curriculum director, Merrill said. “So she had the idea to create an effective program that is run by fellow students and people of similar age to make it more relatable.”

This program includes a blog, which hosts stories written by previous transfer students. They share tips for student success, allowing those in the beginning stages of the transfer process first-hand accounts into the experience. Derisma and her team are in the process of creating an app that includes access to transfer-student curriculum, which reminds students of application deadlines, scholarships and FAFSA information.

Their goal is to turn their initiative into a non-profit organization geared toward the success of students. This process involves conducting college tours to build a clientele base, establishing a website and developing curriculum for an app.

“We hope to obtain a partnership with the Florida education system,” Derisma said. “After we reach our Florida goal, we hope to branch out to other states. Our long-term goal is to be known nationally, assisting transfer students throughout the United States.”

Milka Derisma and President Clinton

Derisma and her team recently returned from the 2017 annual Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) conference, where they met with other change-oriented idea-makers. Their team was one of the few UCF groups selected to attend. The annual conference is hosted by the Clinton Foundation, as part of their initiative to bring student leaders together.

“The goal of CGIU is to host a meeting where young people can create ideas that are essential to solving global challenges—ranging from health, education, poverty, climate change and public heath,” operations director, Nnagboro said.

Attendees participated in panels discussing issues spanning CGIU’s five focus areas: education, environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation and public health. Derisma and her team also attended networking events, seminars and skill-building workshops.

“We definitely engaged in a lot of networking with other commitment makers,” Nnagboro said. “In doing so, we were able to understand more about other commitments, create friendships and spark possible collaborations.”

The last day of the conference included a day of action, where conference-goers came together to renovate a garden for a youth program. The conference concluded with a video message from Hillary Clinton, encouraging attendees to pursue their dreams to improve the world.

“We were also able to come in close contact with former President Bill Clinton and his daughter, Chelsea Clinton,” Nnagboro said. “It was very exciting to be around great leaders, as well as hear how they have made the world a better place.”

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