While many college students spend spring break decompressing from a rigorous term by partying with friends and sleeping until noon, Woodburn’s Reinaldo Ayala will spend his break planning ways to change the world.

Ayala, a 2010 Woodburn High school graduate and junior at Willamette University, was chosen to attend the annual Clinton Global Initiative University. He will be joining nearly 1,000 student leaders from around the world at the conference.

CGI U brings together students, youth organizations, topic experts and celebrities to discuss and develop solutions to current global problems. The three-day conference, held this year March 21-23 at Arizona State University, was launched by President Clinton in 2007 and will be hosted by him and Chelsea Clinton.

“Last year was the first time ever that any individual from Willamette University had the opportunity to be a part of the Clinton Global Initiative,” Ayala said. It was Ayala’s good friend and fellow student Reynaldo Goicochea who attended last year.

But it is the strength of their project, Prisoner’s Poetry, that clinched their acceptance into the conference. Prisoner’s Poetry, founded last year by Goicochea with the help of Ayala, is a poetry class taught by Willamette University students to Latino inmates of the Oregon State Penitentiary.

All attendees of CGI U must develop and submit a practical idea or goal that addresses one of CGI U’s five focus areas: education, environment and climate change, poverty alleviation, peace and human rights, and public health.

At the conference Ayala plans to give an update on the work he is doing with Prisoner’s Poetry and network with other conference LINDSAY KEEFER - Reinaldo Ayala

Ayala said the community service work he has done in college has changed him in unanticipated ways.

“When I started getting involved with these volunteer programs, my main objective was helping other individuals,” he said. “I never even thought about how they could help me. After really reflecting on my involvement with these activities, I began to notice that it wasn’t just me helping them. It was them helping me grow as an individual.”

Ayala, an economics major, said his work with Prisoner’s Poetry has him rethinking what he wants to do after graduation.

“After being involved with this program and other programs that are focused more on social justice issues, I think after graduation I wouldn’t mind working for a nonprofit organization,” he said. “If not that, maybe working in school administration. I think I would like to give back by trying to help others obtain an education.”

While at the conference, Ayala hopes to glean practical information about implementing new ideas.

“From the conference itself I would like to gain an understanding of how one can physically approach an individual with an idea and be able to do something with that idea,” he said. “More like a grassroots way of doing things. Begin from the bottom talking to people, create an idea, and actually making that idea a possibility.”

Ayala said he hopes to inspire others from his hometown.

“As an individual who grew up in Woodburn, I’ve noticed that there’s not a lot of people who take time to do creative service,” he said. “ I would emphasize that community service is not just something that will benefit others, but will benefit yourself. It will help you learn new skills. It will help you become a better person, and overall will help you develop a wider perspective of how life actually is.”

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