The 2019-2020 Year in Review

In July 2019, the Community College Initiative (CCI) Program welcomed 142 participants from 12 countries to the United States. After settling into their host cities, the CCI Program began with the Gateway to Success Program (GSP). The GSP is a pre-academic and orientation program that immerses participants in English language and college preparedness skills. After getting to know their new U.S. campus and community, participants were ready to dive into their fall classes.

For the 2019-20 program, nine community colleges in eight states across America hosted CCI students. At their colleges, CCI participants completed academic coursework in fields of study including agriculture, business, early childhood education, engineering, information technology, media, public safety, and tourism and hospitality management.

Despite the challenges caused by COVID-19, the 2019-20 CCI cohort was resilient and quickly adapted to the shift to virtual classes in the spring. At College of DuPage, Julie Bawm was featured in the college’s Virtual 2020 Maker Market: Meet the Maker video series. During the interview she discussed the business plan for her handloom textiles enterprise in Bangladesh. Meanwhile in Boston at Bunker Hill Community College, Mary Gade from India and Valentina Sanchez Orozco from Colombia virtually celebrated the release of their college’s literary magazine. Both participants had poems published in the magazine’s Spring 2020 edition and read them as part of the college-wide event.

CCI participants Ferhat Yalcin from Turkey (left) and Janet Adjanor from Ghana (center) practiced their culinary skills while studying culinary arts at Scottsdale Community College.

During their orientation program, participants were also introduced to the U.S. spirit of volunteerism by going on group volunteer outings. These outings gave participants the chance to explore the different kinds of service activities available in their host communities. As the fall semester progressed, they pursued volunteer opportunities on their own related to their personal and professional interests.

CCI participants’ volunteer activities included coordinating charity marathons, caring for local parks and gardens, and serving meals to the homeless. In September and January, CCI cohorts across the country volunteered in observance of the 9/11 Day of Service and the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. Engaging in these volunteer activities gave participants a deeper understanding of American culture and helped them foster relationships with U.S. community members. By the end of the program, this year’s CCI cohort contributed 16,567.8 hours of volunteering.

CCI participants from Kirkwood Community College and College of DuPage volunteered at the 2019 Chicago Marathon.

In addition to contributing to U.S. communities through meaningful service, CCI participants also completed 12,606.5 hours of unpaid internship work at U.S. businesses, nonprofits, and other local organizations. In preparation for their internships, participants engaged in the CCI Program’s Professional Excellence Series, which provides career development workshops on topics such as resume writing, interviews, and elevator pitches. Through their internships, participants gained valuable workforce and technical skills and developed their professional networks.

CCI participant Mithobisi Gwala from South Africa interned at the Kirkwood Community College greenhouse during his exchange year. His internship complemented his academic studies in agriculture at the college.

During the program, CCI participants continuously embraced the diversity, history, and culture of the United States. Throughout the year, they visited U.S. cultural and historic landmarks, participated in weekly U.S. Culture Society, and Institutions classes, and celebrated U.S. holidays. Each cohort visited different local sites such as the Pennsylvania and Texas State Capitol buildings to learn about U.S. State governance; Effigy Mounds Monument, a Native American cultural landmark; and the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. As they learned more about the United States, CCI participants also shared their cultures with the Americans they met through culture-sharing activities and events including International Education Week.

For International Education Week, Egyptian CCI participant Manar Elsharkawy shared a poster presentation about Egypt for faculty, students, and staff at her host college, Northern Virginia Community College.

CCI participants were encouraged to seek out leadership positions on campus and in their host community. Several students were elected to serve in officer roles within various college clubs and organizations.

  • Marie Kadio Morokro (Cote d’Ivoire, College of DuPage, Agriculture) – President of La Connexion Française—the French Club on campus
  • Deborah Nkansah (Ghana, Scottsdale Community College, Business) – Secretary of the Council of Student Leaders
  • Fulgence Assamoi (Cote d’Ivoire, Scottsdale Community College, Media) – Public Relations Chairperson for the Council of Student Leaders
  • Billy Samwel (Kenya, Information Technology) and Santoshi Meesala (India, Information Technology) – Students At-large for Scottsdale Community College’s Council of Student Leaders
  • Tanvir Mahmud (Bangladesh, Valencia College, Business) – Vice President of Phi Beta Lambda’s Valencia East Campus Chapter
  • Paula Avellaneda (Colombia, Valencia College, Business) – Treasurer of Phi Beta Lambda’s Valencia West Campus Chapter
  • Wahyuni Khairunnisa (Indonesia, Mesa Community College, Early Childhood Education) – Officer for the Asian-Pacific Islander Coalition
  • Seraphim Awuku (Ghana, Valencia College, Engineering) – Marketing Officer for the National Society of Black Engineers Valencia Chapter
  • Katekani Mbowane (South Africa, Valencia College, Business) – Council Representative for the Black Student Union

In January, the mid-year Pathways to Success Program (PSP) brought all participants together to focus on how to identify, develop, and practice leadership skills needed in today’s workforce. During the PSP, participants with advanced action plans presented about their projects. One project presentation demonstrated a water filtration system designed to bring safe drinking water to communities in Ghana. Another focused on bridging the digital divide in Cote d’Ivoire by equipping girls and women with technology skills.

CCI participants compare their strengths during a leadership workshop at the CCI Pathways to Success Program.

In April, the CCI cohort came together once again for the program’s virtual end-of-year Launch to Success Program (LSP). The LSP prepares participants for re-entry by giving them the tools they need to help launch into a new phase of their professional lives. After a welcome address by State Department and CCI leadership, author Dr. Cate Brubaker led participants through an interactive workshop on navigating re-entry after study abroad. Next, President and Founder of Inspired Engagement Scott Geddis provided a professional development session. The event concluded with an introduction to CCI Alumni Mentoring, a new mentorship platform for CCI alumni. Through these sessions, the LSP aimed to empower participants to navigate their transition to alumni with greater intention and confidence.

As their exchange program came to a close, CCI participants joined virtual end-of-year ceremonies to celebrate their achievements. College faculty and staff, social hosts, and community members also joined the celebrations virtually to celebrate the participants.

After an exciting and sure to be historic year, this year’s successful CCI participants joined the ranks of over 3,200 CCI alumni. We are excited to see how they will make a difference in their home communities!

CCI participants at the mid-year Pathways to Success Program with distinguished guests ECA Deputy Assistant Secretary Caroline Casagrande and Northern Virginia Community College President Dr. Anne Kress. [Photo: U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs]

Posted in Academics, Action Plans, Cultural Exchange, Events, Internships, Leadership, Participants, Volunteering.