Learning about U.S. government is critical to understanding U.S. culture and experience, and Community College Initiative (CCI) Program participants across the U.S. get the unique opportunity to talk with and learn from local, state, and federal U.S. government officials about U.S. politics. Hearing about U.S. government procedures, ethics, and engagement inspires CCI participants to become more involved in student government, their home country’s politics, and international diplomacy.
Community College Initiative (CCI) Program participants at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) recently visited and toured a variety of U.S. federal government establishments, including the U.S. Capitol building and the Library of Congress. They also had the chance to meet with Legislative Correspondent Sean Sweeney from U.S. Senator Mark Warner’s office, who spoke with the students for about an hour. During a question and answer session, he responded to CCI student questions about the legislative process. The students were mostly interested in the U.S. election system and the upcoming election, how or if the President can affect how Congress rules, how a bill becomes a law, and vetoes. Visiting the nation’s capital is a priority activity for CCI students at NOVA.
At Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, CCI Program participants were able to meet Wisconsin State Senator Dave Hansen and Representative Eric Genrich. Senator Hansen and Representative Genrich spoke about their personal experience in politics, explained how international exchange students could get involved in this year’s U.S. presidential election, and gave advice about how CCI participants could get involved in the elections in their home countries. CCI students asked questions about politics in the United States, including how to overcome division between parties, why democracy is important, how to ensure elections are fair, and what election night is like in the United States. Mihail Baez Avalo from the Dominican Republic, who is now volunteering at the Democratic Party Office in Wisconsin, said: “If I get the chance I would like to be part of a government organization in my country, having the power to change lives or make an impact in society.”
On the West Coast at Santa Rosa Junior College, CCI participants met with the mayor of Santa Rosa, John Sawyer. Mayor Sawyer spent almost two hours with the students discussing current challenges in Santa Rosa, the designs of the government in Sonoma County, and the upcoming U.S. presidential election.
When asked what they found interesting about their meeting with the mayor, CCI participants highlighted different subjects. Hermes Adje, a CCI participant from Cote d’Ivoire, said he learned about the different levels of cooperation between the town, county, state, and federal government. Samuel Perilla of Colombia was impressed by the board’s role in Santa Rosa’s government, saying it “makes sure personal interest will not prevail over general interests.” Pakistani student Haroon Zubair mentioned that the meeting made an impact on his perceptions of the U.S. and Angelica Hinestroza, from Colombia, said that their experience talking with the mayor showed her that the international community in Santa Rosa is a meaningful part of the city’s future.
Many CCI participants have been inspired by what they’ve learned about U.S. government and have felt a call to get involved—some even volunteered on National Voter Registration Day to help U.S. citizens register to vote. Several CCI students have been elected to major student government leadership positions, and more still are seeking ways to influence politics back in their home countries.