Have you seen A New Light in Harlem?

Our original upload to YouTube got over 600 views in just a matter of days! We had to do a *tiny* bit of clean-up, so we uploaded a new version (click below).

The film features interviews with General Colin Powell, Dean Vince Boudreau, and faculty, students, alumni, and board members, spotlighting the amazing community we have up here on the City College campus.

Do you know a young person who wants to be a leader in public service? Get access to world-class preparatory coursework and field experience without amassing piles of debt?

Are you a scholar, educator, or community organizer looking to break down walls between the Academy and the surrounding community? Who knows that in order to find better answers to pressing questions of the 21st century, we need to hear more voices?

Watch and learn more about the mission of the Colin Powell School—”A New Light in Harlem.”



From the Field: Simone Gordon Shares Her Experience as an Intern in the Distict of Columbia Public Schools

Working in the nation’s capital – one of the country’s most diverse and highly watched school districts – I have had the opportunity to learn and contribute to the work of managing an urban school district.  Through the Urban Educators Leadership Initiative Program (UELIP) I have spent the last three months interning in the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) Central Office.  It is great, as a future educator, to witness how reforms are made at the district level and then communicated and implemented at the school level.

This is an exciting time to work in DCPS – there have been a number of reforms and initiatives rolled out recently and educators all over the country anxiously await the results.  The DCPS stands in great contrast to those looking on with uncertainty; the office is vibrant, busy, and transformative.  The DCPS has a five year plan to improve public education by pursuing five academic goals:

  • Seventy percent proficiency in reading and math test scores
  • Forty percentage point increase in proficiency at the forty lowest performing schools
  • Four-year high school graduation rate of 75 percent
  • 90 Percent of students saying they like their schools
  • Increased enrollment over the next 5 years

My work on the transportation team in the Office of Special Education supports these goals by bettering access to education, resources, and assistance for special education students.  I assist in tracking and recording student eligibility for our transportation programs.  I make sure students are able to get to school on their first day.  It is my duty to work with parents, special education coordinators, and school administrators to navigate an ambiguous resource process.

Working in the DCPS has been both rewarding and eye opening.  I have explored a number of offices, projects, and programs and learned that education reform can be compared to a game of tug-of-war; there is much push and pull, from the district, to the parents, to the students and teachers.  It is challenging to navigate these demands; the district has to be innovative.

Being on the inside of this process has given me a new lens to review and challenge my own opinions on education.  This experience has changed how I define reform and what it should look like.  I will carry the knowledge I have gained and the autonomy and confidence that UELIP has given me to initiate and participate in future educational reforms.

Simone Gordon is a Colin Powell Leadership fellow (2011-2013). Read more about her and our other contributors here.

To stay up to date with Colin Powell Center events and the work of our fellows, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook!

Eyes on Her Future, a Fellow Reflects on an Inspirational Trip


In October, 32 fellows of the Colin Powell Program in Leadership and Public Service traveled to Washington, D.C. There, they met with General Colin L. Powell and attended presentations at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Center for a New American Security. Afterward, fellow Emie Lomba reflected on what she learned during the trip, and how to apply it to her life. Today, she is drawing on those lessons as she prepares for a future beyond the Center.

November 2011 – The road to success is bumpy, so we have to hold on tight, develop a sense of discipline, and keep persevering. These were the words of General Colin L. Powell’s that I took to heart during our small group conversation with him. Drawing from his life stories, General Powell demonstrated that aspiring leaders have to be ambitious, open to new experiences, hungry for knowledge, and most important, humble. We must always remember, he told us, that success needs to be shared.

General Powell also talked about his ambition for the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) and said his commitment to it helped him through college. Throughout the meeting, he talked to all 32 of us eager students in a casual yet inspirational way. After answering questions, he ended his discussion with these words: “The man cannot wear the clothes of a child.” And that is true. Learning does not end with graduation.

A Full Day

After our meeting with General Powell and a brief visit to the Martin Luther King Memorial, we had lunch with three Colin Powell Center alumni: Jessica Pierno, who works for the Office of the Secretary of Defense in public affairs; Roy Levy, a consultant at the Center for Strategic International Studies; and Melissa Frakman, a manager at the U.S. India Business Council. The alumni told us about the hardships and the benefits of working in Washington D.C., and through their career success stories, about the importance of networking and being open to new experiences. Meeting with them made the future more tangible for me.

After lunch, we visited the Center for New American Security (CNAS). I did not expect the presentation to benefit me specifically, but the words of one alumnus came to mind: “The best thing you can do is to be open-minded to the opportunities that are presented to you.” I learned about the different backgrounds of the people who contribute to CNAS, and also the ways our different majors and interests could fit in at their organization. Afterward, even though I still did not have a clear sense of how the presentation would influence my future decisions, I have a feeling that it somehow will.

emie-lomba-powell-fellow-center colin

Revolutionary Changes

Last, but certainly not least, was our visit to the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS), which I knew I was going to like. I had high expectations and CSIS delivered. Scott Aughenbaugh, a research associate and multimedia manager there, talked about the notion that policy makers must begin to take into account seven revolutions that will have a major impact on the world. These are happening in the areas of 1) population, 2) resources management, 3) technology, 4) information, 5) economics, 6) security, and 7) governance. I found these groupings interesting because they are broad, yet inclusive of many changes going on in the world. Our Center alumnus Roy Levy was there and helped answer our questions, for example, on the issue of “conflict minerals” in technological innovations. The visit to CSIS was definitely my second favorite activity of the day, after the meeting with General Powell, of course.

Despite spending five cranky hours on a bus to D.C. on Thursday, October 28 and hardly getting any sleep that night, I felt this trip was well worth it. Most important, it was also fun. Beyond hanging out with a bunch of smart and talented people and listening to all the interesting things that they had to say, this trip has given me a feeling of reassurance and influenced the ways in which I think of my goals and my path to success.

New graduate Emie Lomba, CCNY class of 2012.

Now a recent graduate of the Colin Powell Program in Leadership and Service, Emie is taking into account the lessons from the trip to Washington as she prepares for her future. Her plans are not yet set in stone, but her goals and ideas for how to attain them reflect the Center’s emphasis on building leaders who work for the common good through civic engagement and service.

May 2012 – I know I want to contribute to positive change but how was a question that I have battled with for the past year. I spent countless hours interviewing, bothering and annoying Colin Powell Center staff to try to find the answers to my problems and as usual they were very supportive…and patient. I remember being afraid. I was scared of making the wrong decisions but after some very fun and interesting outings with my fellow fellows I realized that I was not the only one who felt like this. I was very surprised to find that so many of us leaned on the Center staff for support and it was comforting to be surrounded with so many like-minded peers.

Setting Goals & Exploring Options

I am not exactly sure what I will be doing within the next year. I was accepted to Teachers College for an MA in Comparative and International Education but I am not sure if I will defer my acceptance to the Spring semester. For now, I plan to spend my summer in Gabon shadowing Ministry of Education personnel and compiling research on the Gabonese education system. I want to use the skills I learned in the Powell seminar class and with my capstone to do a policy analysis on a Gabonese education policy (not sure which one yet) and make some intelligent recommendations (hopefully). I might start teaching as well.

I have three main professional goals 1) to become a professor 2) become an education consultant and work internationally and 3) open a non-profit. Hopefully this will not end as all talk and no delivery. Wish me luck! – Emie Lomba

Emie Lomba is a former Colin Powell Leadership fellow (2010-2012). Read more about her and our other contributors here.

To stay up to date with Colin Powell Center events and the work of our fellows, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook!

Powell Leadership Fellow Wins Fulbright Scholarship

Humaira Hansrod, Fulbright Scholarship winner

Winning a Fulbright Scholarship for 2012–2013 will enable Humaira Hansrod to examine support for women’s economic empowerment in the Middle East country of Oman. Humaira, a native of Maurititus who moved to Queens as a young teenager, will graduate from the Macaulay Honors College at CCNY in May with a double major in political science and economics. The Center spoke with her recently about her project and its evolution.

Tell us about your Fulbright Project.
It’s about how specific government policies in Oman are promoting an active role in economic development for women, especially for women who are not so educated and are pursuing work in less formal occupations. The government is providing them with credit and skills so they can build their businesses and participate economically. Oman is a particular case because the government, especially the leader of the government, the Sultan Qaboos bin Said, has actively promoted increased participation by women, especially in rural areas. This is a rarity among Middle East countries, especially among Gulf countries as traditional as Oman.

What motivated you to pursue this project?
I’ve always been interested in women’s rights and economics. So it was interesting to me to find this bridge between economics and policy because women’s work is an economic issue, but the right to work is a political issue. I have to say the kinds of access I’ve had to policy issues and to building my understanding of policy issues at the Powell Center has been key in helping me forge these links.

How does this issue affect women you’ve met in the Middle East?
I’ve lived with local families in every place I’ve been to, and have observed and participated in the kinds of daily interactions that they [and their extended families] engage in. They’re really limited as to what they can do. They’re struck by poverty and have little ability to pursue their interests, but they still are hopeful that if they can’t achieve the kind of economic prosperity they want, they will do what it takes so their children will able to achieve the success they want, even if it means working low-paying jobs or facing domestic violence. These women know their plight is a difficult one, but they take it as something that can be overcome, if not by them then by their children.

What are your long-terms goals?
My interest in the Middle East and especially in women’s rights and their role in economic development is a strong one, but I’d like to leave my options open. I don’t want to say I’m only going to go to grad school, because I think it’s also a fair pursuit to do policy-related work in government or an NGO or a civic center. But if a graduate degree is going to help me become a stronger advocate then, sure, I’ll pursue that, God willing.

Jill Iscol to Lead Discussion at Fellowship End-of-Year Ceremony

jill iscol hearts on fire book

On May 8, the Colin Powell Center will send another generation of young leaders into the world. The Colin Powell Fellowship closing celebration marks the end of a journey for City College students who have spent two years (one year for graduate students) working with community partners and learning how to apply their academic interests through public policy and public service to solve the challenges facing society.

The keynote event of the evening will be a panel discussion featuring Jill Iscol, author of Hearts on Fire; Diahann Billings-Burford, chief service officer of NYC Service; and Jimmie Briggs, executive director of the nonprofit Man Up. The invited speakers are exemplary leaders of the sort the Center aims to form: worldly, engaged and dedicated to helping others.

Moderated by Center Director Vince Boudreau, the discussion will highlight the themes that motivate the speakers and that are at the core of the Center’s mission: civic engagement, commitment to public service, and the challenge of converting idealism into meaningful action.

Iscol is a Democratic party activist, educator, and philanthropist. She is the director of the IF Hummingbird Foundation, established in 1989 to support democracy around the world by combating social, economic and educational inequalities. She chafes at the idea that young people today are unengaged in the world’s problems, as a New York magazine article argued. She fired back:

This generation is starting NGOs, inventing solutions to longstanding human problems, forming partnerships with others around the world, standing with the poor to combat disease, providing educational opportunities, and inventing simple yet effective ways for the poor to connect to the global economy.

Hearts on Fire

Hearts on Fire, Iscol’s 2011 book, recounts the personal journeys of 14 leaders around the world, from California to Uganda to Afghanistan. Those leaders include Billings-Burford and Briggs.

Diahann Billings-Burford

Diahann Billings-Burford is the Chief Service Officer of NYC Service, an effort that encourages volunteerism to tackle New York City’s most pressing problems in the fields of strengthening communities, education, environment, health and emergency preparedness.

Jimmie Briggs

Jimmie Briggs is a freelance journalist who has written extensively on the victimization of children by wars in Afghanistan, Congo, Uganda and elsewhere, culminating in his 2005 book Innocents Lost: When Child Soldiers Go to War. In 2009, Briggs founded Man Up, a global campaign to stop violence against women by activating youth.

If the graduating Powell fellows follow the example of these three leaders, it won’t be the last we hear of them—perhaps they’ll make an appearance in Hearts on Fire 2.

hearts on fire book jill iscol

Welcome to the New Colin Powell Center Blog!

nyc fireworks

Neighborhoods and Nations is the blog of the Colin L. Powell Center for Leadership and Service, a nonpartisan educational, training, and research center named for its founder. This blog will serve as the mouthpiece for Center alumni, partners and staff to share their ideas, opinions, and work in the community and around the world.

You may remember our previous blog, the Powell Network Blog. That content has been migrated to the archives of Neighborhoods and Nations.

What We Do

We want Neighborhoods & Nations to be a collective voice and a vehicle for public conversation. Our topics and categories reflect the work of the Center in six key areas:

  • Community and economic development
  • Education
  • Health care
  • Environmental concerns
  • International development
  • Global security issues

Our posts fall in one of six categories:

  • News & Events: goings on at the Center
  • Public Speaking: contributors addressing issues
  • Fellows at the Forefront: the work of our current fellows
  • Community Contributions: the work of our community partners
  • Our Alumni’s Pursuits: what Center alumni are up to now
  • Faculty Projects: the work of faculty in coordination with the Center

We Want You!

Are you a Colin Powell Center alum or community partner? We want your contribution! We aim to make the blogging process as easy as possible, so don’t be daunted if you’ve never written for the Web before.

We encourage you to take a look at our writers’ guidelines and contact us if you’re interested.

Powell Center Launches Blog

Welcome to the Powell Network Blog!  The Powell Network is made up of current and former Colin Powell Fellows at The City College of New York.  The Powell Network Blog is a space for Powell Network members to engage in public debate about issues involving community and economic development, education, international development and global security, health, and the environment.    Powell Network members come from a range of disciplines at CCNY, and bring a wide variety of perspectives to the most pressing public issues of the day.  Check back regularly for new posts; we encourage comments, feedback and rigorous debate.