All posts by kforbes


Student Life at NOVA is building a community of leaders and inspiring the growth of the whole student by facilitating co-curricular programs that support civic engagement, leadership development, diversity, education, community involvement, and personal empowerment as retention effort.

The conference came on at Loudoun Campus which presentation were selected based on the following student learning outcomes. During the conference, I had opportunity to attend the following presentation: Here is my story, What is yours by Alicia Edwards, Adjunct Faculty, Annandale Campus. Secondly, Mindset & Leadership; Getting out of the Box by Rachelle Thompson, Financial Stability Program Coordinator, NOVA. Again, Leaders Are Overrated; Leadership Misunderstood by Lucy Holsonbake, Faculty Liberal Arts and lastly, I attended Agree to Disagree: How to Move Forward by Vanessa Diaz, Director of Academic Success & Student Engagement.

The experience I had in the conference are numerous but some of them are; gained insight into leadership, diversity, and inclusion efforts by identify leadership characteristics to inform how to lead self and others, to compile best practices to use in creating inclusive communities and Understand the multiple dimensions of diversity and how our background and related experiences inform our role within the NOVA community.

Thanks to our coordinators Kelly and Kate for making us participated in this wonderful event. I am so grateful.



Post written by Patrick Asampana, CCI participant at NOVA-Annandale from Ghana.

Yes, I am More Optimistic Now….

“Now close your eyes and take a deep breath! Write about your kind of world that you want to live”. By giving a final task for all of us, he finished his presentation and put down the power point which had been lighting the entire room for the past 2 hours. It was a fine Friday! For CCI participants it’s CSI Friday.  Every week we have CSI class. This is the day the 30 CCI Program participants sit and talk together, study together and have fun together. That’s how we say good bye to our exhausting busy weeks and make a grand beginning to our weekends. This CSI class was about how to find our real passion and put it into innovative ideas. The smart and enthusiastic instructor from the Ashoka Foundation took us on a journey through his amazing style of presentation. Then it was our turn to look deep inside our heart and ask ourselves what we were really passionate about? What kind of world we wanted to create and live in? I looked around. Everyone was busy with making their own imaginary world. A world which they found peaceful and beautiful, a world where they could be successful and happy. The thought of originating thirty new and innovative ideas about a better world made me so excited. I found it amazing.

For five minutes I spent nothing but watching others. I tried to focus on my paper and write something. The white blankness really annoyed me. I wanted to fill it with multiple colors of thoughts, but I couldn’t. That was frustrating. There are a lot of things that I care about, things that I wanted to change. Where should I start and where should I end? I hate it when somebody takes advantage of others by exploiting their incapability. I hate it when some people are privileged only because they are in a particular religion, cast, ethnicity or gender. I hate it when opportunities are not equally distributed. I hate when people don’t care about others. I just realized my kind of world was very far away from my reality. Finally, I wrote “I want to live in a world where nobody is privileged over others and everybody has the equal freedom and choices to live a life that they love. I read it again and again. I found a cold stream started to flow from the bottom of my heart. It didn’t make me happy but more disappointed. I knew it was too flowery and fantastical for others. But it was from my real passion even though I was not confident about it.

‘Ok, now you guys have to walk around, find one of your CCI friends and share your thoughts with each other”. We got the second task from the instructor. Suddenly the whole class transformed into a gentle motion. We started to walk by carrying worlds full of expectations and found a partner to share. Many small groups of two people formed around me. I felt the atmosphere getting filled with some positive vibes. Laughs, arguments, suggestions and hugs were all over the room.  I found my partner. We accidentally bumped into each other. She pulled out her ripped note book page and held it closely for me to see. I saw a picture of glob with small human sketches and a big smile. I let her speak first because I was embarrassed by my own assumption that my thoughts could be too unrealistic, and she might not get the point. She started to speak. “I always dream of a world where everybody has an opportunity to make their dreams come true. You know, I want to live in a world where each person really matters. She stopped… Is that too much to wish?” she asked. “Never,” I replied. I was continuously smiling while listening to her. I saw the same cold stream developed in me flowing through her heart and wetting her eyes. We hugged each other. I realized that dreaming big is not a fault. Being without any dream is a fault. All great leaders had visions and beautiful dreams. All of them seemed impossible until they came true.  CCI taught me that you are never alone in pursuing a passion to bring changes in this world. I experienced it several times throughout my journey as a CCI participant. I realized it when we started to use a lot of “we” instead of ‘I’ in our action plans and even single conversations. I realized it when we shared sorrows and happiness regardless of our religion, gender, or nationality. I believed in it when my fellow CCI students and I started to care more about the pleasure from giving back to the society not just volunteering hours, and when we found the feeling of home with our host families. CCI brought group of people into my life to made me realize that my vision for a better world is not far away.  Yes, I am more optimistic now, I started to bring changes in my life. I hope I can extend those positiveness to others life as well.


CCI NOVA 2017-2018


Post written by Diana Nadira Puthusseri, CCI participant at NOVA-Annandale from India.


Dhaka, capital city of Bangladesh, a crowded city where I grown up.  After performing my prayer, I was checking my email. I saw my ticket from Dhaka to Virginia has arrived.  My pleasure knowns no bound that finally I was moving into another city alone. Time to become independent had arrived.  The place where I take birth, where I grew up, where I lived now there’s a chance to experience my dream city Virginia, America. Really my dream came to life, studying in America, foremost country in the world. By the grace of God, I got this opportunity. The opportunity of exploration different culture is a different aspect of life. Also, I have to broaden my mind. The local marketplace of food, childhood school, the mosque and melodious Azan, gettogether in Ramadan I am going to leave it all.  The high tune of my mom, the sound of roadside vehicle, and rainy season of my country haunts me over and over again. The tall 18th building, my apartment, and some backbiter neighbor became monotonous in my life. The day before my flight, at 4:00 pm, after getting the ticket, my heart started beating fast, I started sweating, my mouth started becoming dry and my mind was not working. What happened to me? Yes, I was frightened.  I was feeling loneliness so I called my mom and said “Please, come and seat beside me.” Yes, I remember my sister’s face when I left the house for airport, she didn’t cry but she covered a lot of pain and also happiness. My bed, my school, my shopping mall everything is making me sad. Almost 30 hours of journey, will I be able to make it. Yes, I did make it happen when I was shivering at Dulles airport in Virginia. Yes, the road, the shops, the traffic, the people, the weather everything has changed. I was scared and I wanted to go back. Suddenly, a sound from my heart came to mind and I heard – ‘Yes, Ayesha, You can do it. You are not moving into new city, you are moving into new life to learn and discover the new aspects of life’.

Post written by Ayesha Alam, 2017-2018 participant at NOVA-Annandale from Bangladesh

The city that never sleeps

New York City, a city that never sleeps, one of the major tourist spot in the world. It is also one of the most fundamental cultural center in United States of America. It’s natural beauty and night life charms everyone.  It’s iconic sites such as Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, sprawling Central Park, Madame Tussauds adds an incredible scenario which makes eyes blink with sparkling star. Moreover, Rockefeller Center, Time Square, Coney Island, Grand Central Terminal and World Trade Center drives everyone insane. By the grace of God, I have got an opportunity to visit that phenomenal states “ New York” and it has added a golden page in my life.

Madame Tussauds is a well-known wax museum. Everyone knows about cinematic experience from the world that it offers. When I enter it takes me to the Hollywood world. There any one can your dream stars from Hollywood, Royal Family from United Kingdom, and the 1st president George Washington, Former president Abraham Lincoln and current president Donald Trump United States of America. You also don’t need to travel the world to meet Pope & Dalai Lama too.

The world’s biggest and famous Office Building, Empire State Building, on 86th and 102th floor offers panoramic views of New York City. When I climbed on the top of that building which is  102 floor I  feel like you are walking on the cloud. The observation of illuminating night image from highest vantage point from Empire State Building of New York can take anyone’s breathe away.

The Statue of liberty is a national monument and an universal symbol of freedom, immigration and democracy to the millions. It’s everyone’s dream to see this beautiful lady even once in lifetime.  The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest bridge in United States of America. I feel like It is also an resemble a moon in the sky.

Time Square, a is well – organized to take me in a tour in every World’s famous fashion house and Junk food like from H&M to V&S, J.C Penny to American Eagle, Five guys to Burger king and so on. People can also test different food from different country in restaurants too and find the natural spirit of downtown.

New York, full of diversity, heart of America, known for night life is an enormous city for pleasure, hangout, fun and family vacation. It must make your every single moment memorable and golden age in your entire life. I am really blessed that I have an opportunity to visit the city that never sleeps before my death.

Post written by Ayesha Alam, 2017-2018 participant at NOVA-Annandale from Bangladesh

US Exchange Alumni Conferences

From November 8th and 9th, a 2 days US Exchange Alumni Conferences organized by the US embassy in Abidjan took place at Belle Côte Hotel – Abidjan. More than 200 Ivorian beneficiaries and former scholars who have been to the United States or have benefited from educational programs funded by the US Department of States are taking part in this conference. These are the Fulbright and Humphrey programs; the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI), the Mandela Washington Fellowship, the International Visitors Program (IVLP); the Community College Initiative Program (CCI Program); the Study of U.S. Institutes program (SUSI), and many others. As a CCI Program alumni, I was indeed invited to participate too.


These conferences were marked by panels that was moderated by former Fellows and focus on topics such as: English language learning, entrepreneurship promotion, women’s empowerment, civic engagement, promotion of good governance, health, and human rights. I was personally happy to meet all these Alumni to talk about all the opportunities of the CCI Program and to discuss with them about good governance and transparency, fostering inclusive economic growth, supporting security sector reform, and improving the health system and education system in Côte d’Ivoire.

Post written by Soma Ismael Bola, CCI Participant at NOVA-Alexandria 2016-2017, Côte d’Ivoire

Friendship Beyond My Expectation

Before my departure from Ghana I had two days sleepless nights, and all was about how to live together with different people of different cultures, believes and personalities for a year. When I arrived at my apartment with my program coordinator, we met Kiki who was the first person there, she welcomed me with smile and helped me with my luggage to my room, and all what I was expecting how difficult life would be vanished that day.

Kiki (Indonesia), Diana (India), Abibata (Ghana), & Shwethana (India)

The friendship of these girls leads me to the incredible experience; we always move together, eat together, have fun, share our cultures, problems and help each other, when we needed. I have never felt homesick because these girls have made me feel like I am with my blood sisters. What I experience from this people is that, color, culture and believes have no borders in friendship and relationship, what matters is understanding each other and respecting other views.

I had experience within my four months stay here, from fellow CCI participants, in my class, my host mom, and volunteer work, especially working with the elderly. Before I came here, I never knew that old age can loss their memory and behave abnormally but my volunteer with them made me understand this and how to deal with it.

Post written by Abibata Yakubu, CCI participant at NOVA-Annandale from Ghana

Volunteering with Economic Planning Board, Islamabad

What makes you feel good and satisfied in life is the thing which you love to do? It can be anything; sometime, it can be as simple as having a conversation with other people and sharing new ideas or new information to benefit others. To me it is meeting new people and volunteering to bring them at one platform for any specific reason. Bringing something new on the table and getting oneself involved in the activities for the well-being and prosperity of disadvantaged people means a lot to me.

Being born in a very beautiful but very remote area of Pakistan – Hamza, I was exposed to the value of community development through volunteerism from a young age as thousands of youth in area had played and still paying a vital role in uplifting our society. The power of volunteerism especially by youth to bring some semblance of balance in life of people who in need had filled my thoughts since long.

As I began to look beyond my micro universe, it became clear to me that to serve communities better a platform was inevitable and had far-reaching effect on society. I along with my friends, who were also moved by the same cause, joined a forum called Economic Planning Board (EPB) where many young professionals and students come together for a specific reason. Economic Planning board is a platform, led by volunteers, where youth and professionals are brought together so that they can solve the problem and issues faced by our communities and play their role in community development.

We at EPB, through different interventions, benefit our community especially youth not only economically but also socially, physically, and psychologically. These intentions are carried out through different programs which are designed to uplift people fall into different socio-economic status. The major program we work in are as follow.


Human Capital

  • Skills Development
  • Vocational Training
  • Job Placement
  • Professional
  • Development

Personal Financial Management

  • Family Budgeting
  •  Retirement Saving Plans
  • Insurance
  • Investment

Business Development Services

  • Entrepreneur / Business Development
  • Business Retention and Expansion
  • Access to Micro Loan / SME Loan
  • Agriculture Inputs/ Technical Support

Alliance and Groups

  • Trade/Business Alliances
  • Professional Associations
  • Networking Groups

These programs are conducted by our volunteers – professionals and students – who work to help and guide those who are embarking to a new chapter of their life. Every year, thousands of community members are supported in one way or another though these interventions. We help them by showing a clear path on which everyone can pursue their careers. The best thing we do is arranging different events for people and bringing them together at one platform in order to bring smiles and happiness in their faces who usually go through hardship and tough life. We also sometimes arrange different trips and hiking’s to encourage them to be closer to the nature and understand the value which they miss in their lives otherwise.

Many of you might not know about and taste a lot the values of community service which makes your life happier and healthier. Joining this group as volunteer was a great idea and has really encouraged me to share the great benefit of volunteerism with people. I have been a member of this forum for last two years. I found it interesting as they are arranging different events, programs, sessions, and many other projects to build a healthy future for our community. People who work here are all volunteers; they volunteer to learn and to make themselves happier.

Post written by Meher Sultana, CCI participant at NOVA-Alexandria 2016-2017, Pakistan

Post edited on November 20, 2017

CCI Program: The Way to Explore Broad World

Alexandria, VA- Since I was a child, I always heard my parents said that I have to go to new places that they have never visited before. It makes me grow as a girl with many dreams in my life; and for some people, it sounds silly and impossible. I don’t care. I just want to push my own self to be better, for the sake of my “impossible” dreams.

That believe brings me to many new things in my life. When I was in elementary school, I could travel by airplane for the first time in my life, and went to a new place –2 hours flight from my home- as an ambassador from my school in an event. Since then, I made bunch of lists about places that I must visit in my life. Years by years, in my school life, I got many chance to go to new places freely because I tried to do my best in school; Olympic, debate forum, spelling bee competition, singing competition, and many more.

One thing that I like to do when I visit new place is I get new perspective in my life. I can value something from different point of view because I go and experience something new in my life.

In 2016, I made new list. I HAVE TO GO ABROAD FOR STUDY! I wrote that sentence on the whiteboard in my bedroom. I was looking for many chance to get scholarships. Long story short, after a very long journey, I was selected as one of the selected participant of Community College Initiative Program by US Department of State. United State! I have never imagined that I will visit this country as an international student, but God makes it happens. Nothing impossible. Nothing!

Being a volunteer in 9/11 Memorial Day. I was frightened before because I was scared people will scold me because of my hijab. I was totally wrong!

And this is my first three months here. I experience the educational system in the US, the community activities like volunteering, and lots of things that I am very grateful with. I can experience how to mingle with the elderly, eat many kinds of food from the whole world, got American host family, making friends with people from different backgrounds, write 5000 words essay every single week which hopefully makes my writing better, trying so many snacks that I only watch their reviews on YouTube before, visiting some museums and historical places that makes me feel I know nothing, and so many new experience that I believe will become more and more exciting. I am pretty believe, after finishing this program, I will have many new perspectives in life, and I hope those things will make myself as a better person than before.

Got beautiful American mom and gorgeous sister from Ghana. I am blessed!

Post written by Reski Puspitasari A. Sululing, CCI Participant at NOVA-Annandale from Indonesia

CCI Volunteering at The Vienna Oktoberfest 2017

Vienna, VA – I, with other CCI fellows, joined a volunteerism activity in Oktoberfest 2017 at 243 Church St NW (10/7). The location was about one hour driving from my home in Alexandria to the festival area in Vienna. Arriving in the location, people had been crowded in every spots in the festival. The festival were placed in several blocks and blocked the street from any traffic, letting people from all over the towns, even out of states, come and enjoy things offered in the festival. There were many things to see: art exhibition, Vienna’s Little Library 120th Anniversary, music concert, Musical Theater Performance, culinary, and, the main destination, beer festival.
All across the street, there were lots of tents erected line by line displaying artistic pieces by the local artists. One exhibition tent that interested me was decorated as Abraham Lincoln all-abouts. Visitors could find T-shirts, cups, flutter flags, name board, and other furniture that had the sign of one of the most influential US Presidents. So far, every place I visited always reflects the spirit of Abraham Lincoln in many forms like statue, furniture, and poster. I can say he is everywhere in US and becomes the spirit of Americans.
Abraham Lincoln Art Exhibition
One of my favorite parts as well as the most special one at the time was the Vienna’s Little Library 120th Anniversary which has served literature needs of the Vienna people since 1897. They were holding book exhibition. I felt so much blessed when I found that I could find and buy my favorite books for only 50 cent for each. Not only old interesting books, there were many other impressive contemporary novels and other books from different genres like psychology, philosophy, history and many more offered with very low price. Besides, they also conducted a special book talk by local writers in the next week which I unluckily could not manage to attend. However I could follow up the event in their social media account. I found that all events are easily accessible through social media.
Beside of the exhibition, there were also music concert and musical theatre that added more options to visit in the Vienna Oktoberfest 2017. In front of the stage, all audiences from the elders to the youngers, all mixed-race Americans were dancing together enjoying songs sang by the musicians whose songs enabled everyone to move from their seat to the stage to join the dance. Other than that, visitors also were able to watch drama theater which was full of musical Disney instrument. The performance was Peter Pan story. It was very impressive and successfully brought all audiences’ mind to the dream land, especially, the children. I could still feel how happy the children watching the drama directly on the stage, instead of their TV Screen.
Peter Pan Musical Theater
I volunteered in handing wristband to the visitors to get the beer by screening their ID card. It was not literally an easy job. The wristband marked them to be over 21 years old as the official requirement for US people to drink alcohol. If any of them below 21 wearing the band was inspected by the police to drink beer, my fellow volunteers and I would be of course responsible. However we managed to complete our works well since nobody was found to be so. It was fun to meet and serve people who were very excited to enjoy their beer. The funny part was when an old men came to ask their wristband and I was insisted to ask for their ID card to make sure he was over 21 years old. He asked, “is it not clearly visible for you that I am old enough for the beer, young man?”. Then I replayed, “as today you just never looked younger than before, Sir,” and we both were laughing. Many people were very pleasant for a conversation and it gave me more chances to directly learn American culture by doing my task as an age screener.
Irics, CCI participant from Indonesia, is giving a wristband to the visitor, marking her as over 21.
Having successfully conducted for ten years in a row, this festival not only purposes as an annual event where people can meet each other in weekend and have fun with exhibitions, concerts, and other entertainments offered, the event also raises money for the local charity that works for homeless, orphan children, and other people in need. Therefore I could meet many local people devoting their time as volunteers to serve the visitors. In that point, I find it as a traditional value of Americans in devoting themselves to serve their community in volunteerism.
Irics, Herman, Natalia, and Camila are posing after working as wristband volunteer
Post written by Muhammad Arham, 2017-2018 participant at NOVA-Annandale from Indonesia