It feels like I was just writing my welcome letter, and now it’s time to bid farewell to the Northwest Community College Initiative. With news of the grant’s non-renewal earlier this year, every member of the NWCCI team has gone through many stages of finding ways to separate themselves from a job that became much more than a job, and a great part of their lives. My last day in the office was August 15th, 2016.
Working with the NWCCI becomes a way of life, a way of advocating for something we all believe in, that makes its way into our personal lives as and affects the way we interact with people around us. We find ourselves becoming ambassadors for each of the countries that the NWCCI participants come from, now saddled with the stories of people from Turkey, Colombia, Yemen, Brazil, Pakistan, Ghana, South Africa, Cote d’Ivoire, India, Bangladesh, Egypt and Indonesia, we are now also ambassadors for change, acceptance, and diversity and for making our world a much more accepting, and kind place.
While the majority of the NWCCI team has welcomed numerous groups of participants to the United States for their 10-month journey in the NWCCI program since 2009, I will forever remember my experience as one fantastic group of people who in about a year’s time, I was able to watch grow and change. When I began in this position in July 2015, a dream job, I was handed a list of names, each different and unique and full of stories. I was asked to help organize flights to the United States from 11 different countries. I hand-typed these names, birthdays and passport numbers into numerous documents for weeks as I prepared for their arrival. This began my journey of getting to know the NWCCI program. Eventually I was able to see their actual passports and visas, and visas have photos. I began placing pictures in my head with the names I had typed so many times.
Then came airport day, August 12th, 2015. When I met them in person, it was as if these people jumped out of the straight-faced paintings that were their passport photos: lively, brightly colored students in special cloths from their home countries. They were all smiles, even after as many as 30 hours of travel. Eventually through these smiles and laughs I came to know their home countries, and visit them through their eyes and stories. No longer was Indonesia or Ghana just a name on a map. I learned about the good and the bad things from their countries, and I am hopeful for the change that they plan to enact when they return home.
And just like it is time for the NWCCI students to disperse back into society in their home country and begin their own journeys, clutching tightly the skills and values they learned in the NWCCI from their teachers, advisors, mentors, internship providers and friendship families, I too, will take with me the skills I have developed while working with the NWCCI, and the stories I’ve heard, to find ways to continue to enact change and promote acceptance in our troubled and wide world.
The NWCCI program is part of the Community College Initiative, an exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The opinions expressed in this blog by writers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Northwest Community College Initiative program, Edmonds Community College, Whatcom Community College, Pierce College, the United States Department of State or any employee thereof. NWCCI and Edmonds Community College are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied by the students or bloggers.