Colin Powell School
Relationships Are a Support System: Amagla Atoumou Journey to Becoming a Racial Justice Fellow and a Social Worker
After immigrating from Côte d'Ivoire as a child, struggling to adapt to her new surroundings, and experiencing homelessness in high school, Amagla Atoumou was keenly aware of the importance of understanding social systems and how they affect the most marginalized communities. She declared a double major and double minor in the social sciences to get a broad, interdisciplinary understanding of the issues that had affected her life and the lives of so many others. She became a Racial Justice Fellow and formed close professional relationships with her fellow students as well as her professors and advisors. Building such relationships is an essential part of college education, which she advises future students to take seriously. A recent graduate from the Colin Powell School, Atoumou aspires to become a social worker to serve the communities most affected by public policies. Read the full interview.
Please share a little about your background.
I was born in Ivory Coast and migrated to the United States at the age of six. It took a lot of effort on my part, as it did on the part of most immigrant children, to learn English fast enough to keep up with my schoolwork and interact with my peers, but with the help of my mother and teachers, I was able to excel. I attended a high school that emphasized the significance of community service and included it in our curriculum, which aided me in discovering my passion for helping others. I took courses on intersectionality and constitutional law during my junior year of high school and fell in love with them, so I chose to major in social sciences in college. My high school experience wasn't easy because I was homeless for virtually the whole four years, but with the help of compassionate teachers, I was able to get the resources I needed outside school hours to finish my assignments as well as the resources I needed to apply to colleges.
What brought you to City College?
I decided to pursue my undergraduate education at City College because of the wide range of programs offered, as well as the numerous opportunities and support provided to students. I was able to focus on a variety of disciplines to gain critical knowledge and awareness of the world we live in, analyze different ideas, innovate, and understand how various institutions shape individuals.
What impassions you and gives you purpose?
Because I enjoy working with marginalized communities and believe that well-run municipalities are the cornerstone of thriving communities, I chose to pursue a double major in political science and international relations, as well as a double minor in sociology and public policy. I believe that in order for me to directly serve those who are affected by legislation and policies, I must first understand them.
How has the Colin Powell School helped you advance in your career?
The Colin Powell School at City College connected me with advisors and individuals like Deborah Cheng, who was my mentor in the Racial Justice Fellows Program, who helped me gain access to internships and opportunities to enhance my skills, which led me to go out of my way to land a position as a development and fundraising intern at kindness.org. Then I continued my passion for serving others by pursuing a career in the field of social work, working as a peer youth advocate at a nonprofit organization. I hope to obtain a master's degree in social work and continue to build and restore communities.
What is a significant memory you’d like to share about your time at CCNY?
Among my fondest memories from my time at City College are the bonds I was able to form with my cohorts while participating in the Colin Powell School's Racial Justice Fellows Program. We were able to form bonds during the beginning of a difficult period in this country when we were unable to interact directly with one another due to Covid-19. Most of us are still in contact with one another and we still support each other through our endeavors.
Do you have any advice you could give to current or future students?
My single piece of advice is to form relationships with your professors, classmates, and other students you encounter on campus. These relationships will enhance your professional development and provide you with a support system throughout your career.