Picture of five people sitting on the stage. The person to the far right is speaking into a microphone.

Pathways to Success Program 2023: Tackling Global Challenges and Building Sustainability with Locally Led Solutions

Pathways to Success Program, January 8-13, 2023

January marks the mid-point of the Community College Initiative (CCI) Program. After completing the fall semester and enjoying a much-deserved winter break, the CCI participants take part in the CCI Program’s annual mid-year Pathways to Success Program (PSP). The PSP is designed to build participant skills in leadership, communications, and critical thinking. The PSP also provides opportunities for self-reflection, goal setting, and networking.

Due to the pandemic, the PSP has been held virtually for the past two years; however, this year all 161 CCI Program participants representing 18 countries on five continents were able to meet in person during the second week of January 2023. The week-long event was split between two locations: Alexandria, Virginia and Natural Bridge State Park, Virginia. With the theme “Tackling Global Challenges and Building Sustainability with Locally Led Solutions,” this year’s workshops and guest speakers focused on how to identify challenges, develop locally led solutions, and practice critical skills needed to become change-makers in their communities. To build the professional capacity of CCI exchange participants, expert speakers and CCI staff led the group through interactive leadership skills workshops and activities.

Picture of Ethan Rosenzweig

Ethan Rosenzweig, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Academic Programs at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs welcomes the CCI participants. (Photo taken by Hashem Helmi)

The program began with welcoming remarks from Ethan Rosenzweig, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Academic Programs at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), U.S. Department of State, who spoke of the value of people-to-people exchanges and the important role that the CCI participants play as cultural ambassadors both here in the United States in their host colleges and communities, and when they return to their home countries and share their experiences with friends, families, and colleagues. Dr. Michelle Brown-Nevers, Vice President, Enrollment Management and Services at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) followed with remarks encouraging participants to take full advantage of the opportunities provided on their host campuses and thanked ECA for entrusting NOVA to administer the CCI Program.

“The Social Entrepreneurship topic was my favourite part. I learnt something very special. I always dreamt of becoming a social entrepreneur. That session helped me a lot designing a plan.” – CCI Participant

In the style of fireside chats, CCI participants heard the inspiring stories of Chef Victor Albisu, and social entrepreneurs Andy Stoll and Buey Ray Tut. Chef Victor chronicled his journey that started at Northern Virginia Community College and has led him to become an award-winning chef and owner of Taco Bamba, a culinary ambassador, and the co-founder of Smile on the World, a non-profit group of chefs, doctors, and dentists who provide aid and medical care to underserved communities. Andy, currently a Senior Program Officer in

Picture of Buey Ray Tut and Andy Stoll sitting on stage, talking.

Buey Ray Tut and Andy Stoll (photo taken by Hashem Helmi)

Entrepreneurship at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, spoke of his experience as a young entrepreneur in college and the work he has done since then helping others turn their creative ideas into reality. Buey told the CCI participants about how the memory of his mother walking several miles each day to gather water for the family when they lived in Sudan led him to cofound Aqua Africa to provide access to clean drinking water to the South Sudanese people.

The PSP also included two workshops on media literacy. The first one was led by Megan Fromm from the National Association for Media Literacy Education and included several interactive activities designed to recognize biases and whether something is real, fake, or somewhere in between. During the second one, Paul J. Fischer, Senior Technology Advisor, Technology Engagement Division, Global Engagement Center, U.S. Department of State, spoke about how the Department of State uses online video games to teach media literacy to high school and college students. By playing the games, participants begin to recognize propaganda and disinformation; thereby becoming smarter consumers of media.

The CCI participants were able to further develop their communication and leadership skills through interactive sessions on storytelling, nonviolent communications, and understanding and leveraging motivation styles. Author and journalist Kara Newhouse introduced effective storytelling techniques and prompted participants to begin learning how to communicate their own stories about their exchange experience. Dr. Paul Fitzgerald and Dr. Cheri Lemieux Spiegel, co-founders of This Most Unbelievable Life, LLC led participants through an interactive activity to enhance their conflict resolution and communication skills by practicing nonviolent communication. Lastly, guided by the CCI Program Coordinators, participants engaged in interactive small group activities and self-reflection regarding the Four Tendencies: Upholder, Obliger, Questioner, and Rebel.

“The PSP has inspired me in so many levels. I now see where I stand and what I want to do for the months left and also for the years coming next.” – CCI Participant

One of the highlights of the week was the Alumni Engagement Panel where CCI alumnus Gomolemo Mophapi (South Africa, Northern Virginia Community College, IT, 2017-2018), Md Arafat Hasan, Bangladesh (Northern Virginia Community College, GIS, 2015-2016), Vanesa de la Cruz, Colombia (Northern Virginia Community College, Journalism, 2016-2017), and Miguel Romero, Colombia, Houston Community College, Cybersecurity, 2017-2018) spoke about their CCI experiences and their accomplishments after returning to their home countries. They shared about the challenges they faced and what they did to overcome them. The session was moderated by Kelsi Ward Molowa, Branch Chief, Office of Global Education Programs.

A select number of current CCI participants presented on the progress of their Community Impact Projects, which they have been working for the past few months. Diego Vicioso from the Dominican Republic received a standing ovation after presenting his project, which benefits visually impaired students at his host college, Northampton Community College. Diego created a navigation tool that visually impaired students can use to independently navigate campus. By scanning their smart phones at code markers placed in predetermined locations, the smart phones voice out walking instructions to help navigate from that location to where they would like to go.

“I was going through many ups and downs here at my campus but after returning from Pathways to Success Program event, I am full of positive attitude. I found the real me. I interacted with many people and made lots of long lasting experience. Visit to white House was one of my dreams which could not have been possible without your support. Thank you so much ❤️.” – CCI Participant

Picture of two CCI participants building a stone firepit.

Building Fire Pits at the Natural Bridge (Photo taken by Kayla Chepytor)

In addition to the leadership workshops, participants were able to visit and tour the White House while in Washington, DC. While in Natural Bridge State Park, participants went on guided tours of the Natural Bridge and the caverns at Natural Bridge. They stayed at the historic hotel located in the park and learned about the history of the location and the formation of the Natural Bridge and caverns. As a special project, the CCI participants built stone fire pits in the courtyard behind the hotel for future guests to enjoy.

During their stay at Natural Bridge, participants were able to reflect on the first half of their program year and set goals for second half of the program to maximize their CCI experience. Through guided, small group activities, they learned about their leadership roles and how to manage group dynamics. They also explored how interconnected global issues and events are. This became particularly evident during the Global Connectivity session when participants from Ukraine spoke about the war and others were able to connect the effects of what was happening in Ukraine to other global issues such as the price of oil.

The last event of the program was the Community Impact Program Networking session, where participants were able to connect with others working on similar projects and to get advice and feedback from their peers. Nolwazi Khuzwayo (KCC, South Africa) said that the discussions she had with her peers re-energized her and gave her new ideas of how she could shape her project for significant impact.

Thursday evening, the group came together for dinner and the closing ceremony. Many participants wore traditional clothing from their home countries. The Indonesians performed a special dance and then invited everyone to join along. For the rest of the evening the participants celebrated their cultures and friendships through dance and song.

The PSP wrapped up with CCI Assistant Director, Sara Mohamed challenging participants to think about how they can make a positive impact on their local communities. With tearful goodbyes and lots of hugging, the participants boarded the buses to go back to their host colleges. What they did not realize was the impact that they made on the hotel staff at Natural Bridge. After the group’s departure, one employee said that she had never experienced being around people from so many countries before. She said she thoroughly enjoyed watching their performances and was so thankful that she had been a part of the experience.

Picture of all 161 CCI participants and staff, posing outside in the grass.

2022-2023 CCI Program Participants (Photo taken by Hashem Helmi)

“We live in the age of the internet and connection and I am grateful for it but I don’t remember the last time I was able to connect with people in person like I did during PSP. I guess you can say that I re-learned how beautiful it is to form friendships in this fast but unique way that will last for a long time. I know for sure that the people that I met will always help to inspire and give me ideas, feedback and advice in the future if I need to.” –Adem Bislimi, CCI Participant from Kosovo


Baltimore Media Literacy Program

Following the PSP, the CCI participants from College of DuPage (COD) traveled to Baltimore, MD for a special Media Literacy Program hosted by the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC). The program included several workshops led by CCBC faculty, dynamic guest speakers in the media world, visits to the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Baltimore Inner Harbor, and a group media project.

The workshops focused on themes of diverse voices in the

Picture of five CCI particiapants standing next to a screen that is showing their group project.

Group Project Presentation

media and the media in Baltimore. From CCBC dean Adrianne Washington, participants learned about how the media has presented diverse populations in the past and present. Department chairs Nick VanHorn (Philosophy) and Michael Walsh (Communications) led the group in a discussion about philosophy and cancel culture in the media. CCBC librarian, Elizabeth Godwin presented about Publicizing the Catonsville Historical Society Collection at CCBC. Finally, CCBC Communications Arts Faculty member Beth Baunoch covered podcasting and social media marketing.

The guest speakers included a panel from the DC based Spanish-language TV station, Telemundo; WJZ Baltimore reporter, Tim Williams; Voice of America journalist, Ma Sumon; and local journalist, historian, and humorist Tom Chalkley. The COD participants enjoyed hearing from a variety of professionals with unique perspectives and backgrounds. They were surprised to learn how journalists and reporters today are rarely supported by a team of editors and producers and are often recording their stories on their cell phones and doing their own editing and pre and postproduction work. This enabled the participants to directly connect what they are learning in the classroom with the work that journalist do in the field. One participant commented, “Hearing first hand from people in the field was important. I appreciate how they made things/their work tangible for us instead of presenting some concepts or definitions.”

The participants were also challenged to think about the meaning of free speech and how it can be celebrated through protests and art or suppressed by the government or cancel culture. Anat Sharipov from Kazakhstan said, “Given the opportunity to speak up, we have talked, discussed, disagreed, analyzed, researched, shared emotions and given voice to our experiences. There was a lot to learn.”

Cover Photo: CCI Alumni Panel moderated by Kelsi Ward Molowa, Branch Chief, Office of Global Education Programs (Photo taken by Daouda Coulibaly)

Written by Kelly Forbes, Program Support Associate

Posted in Events, Leadership, Participants.