Student, Faculty, and Alumni Stories

July 20, 2021
  Aneesah Saeed: Listening to Her Calling as an International Social Justice Leader   Aneesah Saeed started college as a pre-med major, but she soon discovered that medicine was not her calling. Driven by recurring memories of child poverty and exploitation that she had witnessed as a girl in Pakistan, she joined the International Studies program at the Colin Powell School, committed to working to solve these problems at their root. In this interview, she tells of her upbringing as a biracial Pakistani-Italian American. She discusses how, as a student, she has found mentors,… Read More »


July 20, 2021
  Marrying Film and Activism: Savannah Washington on Her Path as a Film Director and the Making of “Playing Frisbee in North Korea”  After growing up in Detroit, Savannah Washington came to New York to combine her love of film, creative writing, and theater with her love of social activism. She became a Colin Powell Graduate Fellow in 2010 and learned about the conflict and human rights conditions on the Korean Peninsula. With close mentorship and financial support from the Colin Powell Center, Washington traveled to Korea and produced a cinema verite documentary film titled "… Read More »


June 15, 2021
    Finding Strength in Setbacks, from Hurricane María to Mental Health    After Hurricane María tore apart her community in Puerto Rico, Mónica Martínez-Raga enrolled at CCNY with tuition support that New York State provided to hurricane victims. In this interview, she tells her story of overcoming personal battles with mental health and self-confidence, falling in love with the study of economics, and taking full advantage of the opportunities available through the Colin Powell School. She emphasizes the importance of showing up to events, learning to network with people… Read More »


June 15, 2021
    “I want to make us proud of who we are” — Rose Crisostomo Cabrera on Service and Career-Building at the Colin Powell School     Rose Crisostomo Cabrera grew up in Washington Heights and Inwood after migrating with her mother from the Dominican Republic. A first-generation college student, Rose developed an interest in economics and finance and was elected as a student senator. While seizing opportunities to intern and build her career in finance, Rose has also been dedicated to supporting her fellow students to realize their own potential.     Please share a little about… Read More »


May 18, 2021
​​           SHILPA SHAJU, a Colin Powell School Graduate, Named CCNY Salutatorian     Where are you from? Please share a little of your story.  My parents immigrated to the US from Kerala, India. They then settled in Queens, New York and later moved to New Hyde Park on Long Island. I grew up in New Hyde Park and attended middle school and high school there. I would say I grew up in a pretty homogenous town, considering that most of my graduating class was either South Asian or white. I really only understood what true diversity looked like when I arrived here at CCNY… Read More »


May 18, 2021
                    Hebh Jamal 2021 Salutatorian for Colin Powell School     Where are you from? Please share a little of your story.  I come from immigrant Palestinian parents who landed in the Bronx, which is where I have lived my whole life. Before I arrived at City College, I spent a majority of my high school years tackling school segregation and education inequalities. I went to a majority white high school where microaggressions and subtle racism were the norm. It was also during the time Trump got elected as president and it was a turbulent and political… Read More »


May 17, 2021
                Sangida Akter 2021 Salutatorian for Colin Powell School      1. Where are you from and what is your background? Please share your story from the period before you arrived at CCNY. My parents are originally from Bangladesh. I was born in Los Angeles, then moved to Queens, NYC where I have spent most of my life. However, for a period of years I did live in Saudi Arabia and often visit Bangladesh. In that way, I feel like I have a foot in both hemispheres. This is probably why the influence of cultural identity and beliefs in psychological research has… Read More »


May 17, 2021
                  Tony Huertas 2021 Salutatorian for Colin Powell School     Where are you from? Please share a little of your story.  I am a proud student of Puerto Rican descent, born and raised in NYC. I am also a member of the LGBTQ community and I have a disability. I returned to the classroom after a thirty-year absence because I realized that there was more that I wanted to accomplish and there is no expiration date for learning and realizing the dream of graduating from college. As a member of the LGBTQ community sometimes we are precluded from accessing… Read More »


May 17, 2021
                Aisha Fuenzalida Butt  2021 Valedictorian for Colin Powell School      1. Where are you from and what is your background? Please share your story from the period before you arrived at CCNY. I am a first-generation college student from a low income family. I grew up in Staten Island in a bilingual, multiethnic Chilean-Pakistani household. I was raised by my single mother and older sister in a family made up solely of resilient women. There was always an abundance of arroz con leche and roti to welcome any company but no guidance to aid me as I… Read More »


April 20, 2021
  “It Is Ok Not to Know What You Want to Do,” Xin Ying Wu on Discovering Her Path in Public Service   As an undergraduate, Xin Ying Wu studied economics, intending to apply what she learned to her family’s Chinese food restaurant, where she had worked as an adolescent after migrating to the US as a child. Then a chance encounter in the Colin Powell School Fellowships Office - along with deep conversations with colleagues, mentors, and fellow students - led her to discover a passion for public service. She now works in the New York State Assembly and will finish her Master in… Read More »