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USM Grad Student Heads to Africa with Clinton Foundation

Patrick Welsh

JACKSON – Patrick Welsh will put his passion for community betterment on high alert in coming weeks as he joins the delegation traveling with former President Bill Clinton to project sites in Africa and the Clinton Global Initiative in Marrakech, Morocco.

Welsh, 35, is a Jackson native and University of Mississippi graduate in political science now working on an MBA with an emphasis in economic development at the University of Southern Mississippi.

He’ll be among 20 delegation members, about 15 Clinton Foundation staff and several press members who’ll review supported projects in Tanzania, Kenya, Liberia and Morocco. The Clinton Foundation works on issues in climate change, economic development, global health, disease prevention and opportunities for women and girls. They leave at the end of the week for the trip that concludes in Marrakech with the inaugural CGI Middle East and Africa meeting focusing on economic development, May 5-7.

The opportunity came through Welsh’s friend, Clinton Foundation supporter and USM supporter and alumna Beverly Dale. At a New York fundraiser, she found out about “the chance of a lifetime” trip to see projects in improved farming methods, initiatives around women and girls — “that happens to be my hot button” — entrepreneurship and more. She could take one other person “and Patrick sprang right to mind,” she said from Austin. He’d organized a Mississippi tour for her of Delta projects in recent years, and they’d worked together since 2010.

“Patrick’s heart and intentions are right in line with mine, and he’s fortunately 30-plus years younger than I am,” she said with a chuckle, “so he’s got lots of time to facilitate. And I know he will.”

Welsh said the trip’s agenda and conference topics “is a total chance for me to nerd-out” in political science and economic development, likening it to Wimbledon for a tennis fan.

“I’m just so thrilled to get to see these things in action, hear about what’s working, hear about what’s not working and then be able to take that knowledge with me, to where I go next,” he said. “Plus, I’m a huge Democrat,” eager to travel with Clinton — “somebody who’s so charismatic and so driven to make the world a better place.”

It feeds the travel bug, too, for a man who grew up on summer trips, traveled Europe, studied abroad twice and spent a summer working for Habitat International in Malawi.

Welsh credits his parents, Pat and Jean Welsh, and his experiences with honing a focus on community improvement. He grew up in northeast Jackson, and long noted the work done by his church, Northminster Baptist, and by leaders such as Jeff Good and Malcolm White — “people who just have a real desire to help make things better.

“People like that have always inspired me to be a part of that change.”

Sound like a Boy Scout? Spot on. The Eagle rank was a family requirement, he said. “We were not allowed to get our first car, after we got our driver’s license, until we got our Eagle Scout. When you’re a teenager, that’s a huge motivator. … Don’t quit. Don’t give up.” Jackson Academy also encouraged community service hours.

His background includes volunteering with Oxfam International, working for the youth enrichment services at New York’s LGBT Community Center and with nonprofits, good causes and technology start-ups in San Francisco.

He started a nonprofit in Belize a few years ago with social work students from the University of Mississippi. “In a situation like that, it’s very easy to see the gaps that are present in a community or society,” with needs in areas taken for granted here such as health care and infrastructure.

“But as far as being an American and living in the U.S., there are still a lot of gaps here as well, where needs can be met.”

Published: April 26, 2015. By Sherry Lucas
Copyright  © 2015 www.hattiesburgamerican.com

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