Office of Student Success

Colin Powell Fellowship in Leadership and Public Service

The Colin Powell Fellowship in Leadership and Public Service is a two-year program for undergraduate students who want to pursue careers in government, nonprofit organizations, and other forms of public service. It is particularly for students who immigrated to the US or whose parents immigrated to the US, as well as those who demonstrate interest in exploring social issues that impact African American and other underserved communities. The fellowship prepares you with the skills necessary to tackle issues of public concern. You acquire a broad knowledge of political institutions and the policymaking process, and learn about public service opportunities. Through seminars, internships, and professional development activities, you will explore methods of creating lasting social change.

If you’re interested in public service and can commit to a two-year fellowship, this opportunity is for you! No prior experience is necessary — just a desire to learn about and work toward social change.

Program Contact

Christine Garmendiz Headshot

Fellowships and Student Success Program Coordinator

Christine Garmendiz

Program Contact

Director of Fellowship Programs & Office of Student Success

Debbie Cheng


Each fellow will receive a maximum of $21,500 for two years. Fellows receive a $4,000 scholarship per semester for four semesters, fully covering in-state tuition and fees. You are also eligible to receive an additional stipend of $5,500 for a summer internship. 

Students who are in the Macaulay Honors College or Excelsior Scholarship program will receive a $2,500 stipend instead of the $4,000 scholarship each semester. This is because your programs already pay for your tuition and fees.

Support comes from the Fulvio V. Dobrich New Americans Scholarship Fund and the New York Life Foundation.


Over the course of two full academic years, you are introduced to the key themes of the program: leadership, public service, and teamwork. The seminars explore a variety of pressing public problems and social justice issues; the foundations of policymaking; career paths in public service and the nonprofit sector; leadership and project management skills; and teamwork. You will meet guest speakers representing a variety of public service careers and issues. These seminars are mandatory for fellows and take place on Tuesdays from 5:30 to 7:30 pm during the fall and spring semesters. Each seminar comes with 3 SSC credits.

The first-year seminar is taught by Prof. Debbie Cheng and explores issues related to racial, economic, and social inequality. It is a reading and discussion-intensive seminar, offering a survey of critical topics such as environmental justice, US and global poverty, and social movements. We read works by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Stacey Abrams, Matthew Desmond, and Catherine Coleman Flowers. The seminar also provides professional development opportunities, enabling you to explore how you might address some of these issues.

The second-year seminar, taught by Prof. Nick Gulotta, builds upon the first-year foundation and equips fellows with the tools and techniques for collective problem-solving and public policymaking. Fellows learn about budgets, communication strategies, and advocacy methods, all in the service of addressing the issues you’re interested in.

Summer Internship

We encourage you to participate in a summer internship between the first and second years of the fellowship that fits your goals, as well as those of the program. Full-time, unpaid interns who work for at least 9 weeks at nonprofit organizations or government agencies can receive a $5,500 stipend. This stipend will be adjusted for paid or shorter internships.

Professional Development

We emphasize professional development in the seminar by helping you plan for your careers, develop your resumes and cover letters, and network. We invite a range of guest speakers, including alumni fellows, to discuss what they do and how they got there. Fellows are also required to attend special events and networking opportunities.


Applicants for the 2023-2025 fellowship:

  • must be full-time undergraduate students from Fall 2023 to Spring 2025
  • can be from any school/major
  • have no GPA requirement or citizenship requirement
  • must demonstrate interest in a career in public service

Application Questions

Please upload responses to the following questions through the application form. Write your name on all application materials.

Personal Statement: Tell us about your scholarly interests and experiences in college. What factors shaped your interests? What are your career goals, and how are they related to public service? Upload an essay that is between 150 and 250 words.

Essay 1: Describe an issue or a problem that you are passionate about. This may be related to a project that you participated in, or it might be an issue that you have yet to tackle. What are the root causes of the problem? What recommendations would you make to policymakers, organizations, community members, and/or other vested interests that might help address the problem? Upload an essay that is between 500 and 750 words.

Essay 2: What are your career goals, and how are they related to public policy and/or public service? How do you think the Colin Powell School Fellowship in Leadership and Public Service might help you achieve those goals? Upload an essay that is between 500 and 750 words.

Recommendation Letters: You must provide two recommendation letters, one of which must come from a professor, although that professor does not have to teach at CCNY. Advise your recommenders to email their letters to by the application deadline.

2022-2023 Colin Powell Fellows (Year 1)

Ayesha Khan

Ayesha Khan is a third-year student at the Sophie Davis BS/MD program, majoring in Biomedical Sciences and minoring in Public Policy. With an apparent interest in healthcare, Ayesha cares deeply about how the existing healthcare system can be made more accessible and equitable. She can often be found canvassing for local progressive candidates and fighting for the New York Health Act – which would guarantee free, comprehensive healthcare for all New Yorkers. She is also interested in learning about the complex relationship between people and plants and how that understanding can be used to heal people. Aside from this, Ayesha is a huge podcast listener, an avid reader, a painter of middling talent, and a gardener who could talk about her plants for hours!

Aissatou Leye

Aissatou Leye is a returning student from Senegal majoring in Anthropology and International Studies. After completing a 15-year career as a Foreign Service Officer, she felt the need to broaden her understanding of the constantly fluctuating trends of the world, especially from a social scientist’s perspective. That thirst for knowledge and her interest in global social issues led her to the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership, where she fell in love with Anthropology and decided to include it in her curriculum. She is planning to pursue an MBA and eventually Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology. Furthermore, she is involved in the PTO Board as the Vice President of Cultural Affairs at Nyfacs, a Harlem bilingual charter school known for its diversity.

Bouampoundi Brigitte Thiombiano

Bouampoundi Brigitte Thiombiano is originally from Burkina Faso, West Africa. She is a junior majoring in International Relations and minoring in Community Change. From her earliest memories, Bouampoundi has always sought to serve others. She had an opportunity to be deployed in the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) as a peacekeeper for 14 months, with an award of recognition at the end of her deployment. This UNAMID mission allows her to mingle and learn about the struggles of women and children living in a military conflict nation. Seeing men and women from all walks of life and with all levels of competence put themselves at the service of reconstructing a country devastated by war had a significant role in my choice to pursue studies in international relations.

Gilles Ghislain Tanke Seulio

Gilles Seulio is a junior pursuing a bachelor’s degree in political science. He was devoted to public service very early in his life, most especially after he noticed firsthand the succession of riots that took place in Cameroon, in which he saw human rights being trampled upon. He is passionate about writing and names the South African writer Andre Brink as one of his favorite writers, as he uses his art to bring awareness to social issues. Gilles Seulio also works as the program extension manager for an organization called BBAD (Building a Brighter African Diaspora), which is an African-centric organization that aims to reunite the African Diaspora and help shape a new narrative of the continent.

Kazi Tejwar

Kazi is a sophomore double-majoring in Sociology and Political Science. He is a first-generation American with his two siblings, where both of his parents immigrated from Bangladesh. Kazi came to the school during the pandemic, and he came here for mainly three reasons — the affordability, the easy commute, and the excellent education. He has been active on campus, especially from his work as the former Vice President of Campus of Affairs for the Undergraduate Student Government, where he, with his passion for voting rights, launched the John Lewis Initiative to open campus up as an early voting site that expanded voting access for 3,000 residents in Harlem. Ever since the election of Barack Obama, Kazi’s passion and dream have been to pursue a career in public service; he has been involved in activism since high school, where he first volunteered for the Elizabeth Warren campaign and later interned for NYPIRG when he came to CCNY. In addition, he is very passionate about Antitrust policy and hopes to start his career as an Antitrust attorney. During his free time, he usually likes to read, write, hang out with friends, and spend time with family.

Kelly Rivera

Kelly Rivera is currently a junior majoring in Political Science. She is passionate about social justice issues: particularly civil rights. She is committed to advancing justice for women and immigrants while advocating for environmental justice. At City College, Kelly has been actively involved in advocacy, interning with NYPIRG and serving as the Education Caucus Chair for College Democrats of New York. Originally from Mexico, Kelly is motivated to pursue her passion for public interest work to combat the prevailing issues that underreserved minorities struggle to overcome. Kelly is a first-generation college student; she enjoys reading and playing the piano in her free time.

Maya Pagan

Maya Pagan is a proud Nuyorican born and raised in Brooklyn. She is currently ending her junior year with a double major in Psychology and Latinx Studies, minoring in women and gender studies. Maya has a background in the arts and decided to pursue her BA due to a long-standing passion for mental and sexual health for BIPOC &LGBTQIA+ folks, as well as community work. She avidly believes that mental and sexual health services are essential healthcare. Seeing firsthand how access to good healthcare services can change lives, she feels passionate about working with organizations that share this vision. Maya’s super excited to be joining the fellows this coming semester! She looks forward to connecting and meeting like-minded folks who want to make significant changes in their communities! In her free-and busy- time, Maya is a huge foodie and enjoys creating and building her small art business.

Muhammad Shabbir

Muhammad Hasnain Shabbir (preferred name: Hasnain) is a rising junior who is majoring in Computer Science and minoring in Economics. Muhammad is a first-generation student born in Pakistan and studied in Malaysia and Kenya as an international student before coming to the US before the pandemic. Hasnain’s passion for technology came from his love of opening everything electronic device in his house. He wants to apply his knowledge to improving the education system for the less fortunate ones. Hasnain has always tried to lead in everything he does, whether in school as the Head of Discipline Body or on the cricket field. Hasnain aims to improve his leadership skills through the Colin Powell Fellowship in Public service and Leadership. During his free time, Hasnain likes to guide prospective international students on their journey to the United States as he has been an international student for over a decade.

Sumaiya Rashid

Sumaiya Rashid is a rising sophomore at CCNY, majoring in Psychology and minoring in Political Science. As a New York native, she is aware of the disparities and lack of mental health resources that plague the city. Her interest in the Colin Powell fellowship stems from the desire to advocate for those without a voice. She is passionate about mental health awareness, education, and politics. Sumaiya hopes to work directly with those in underserved neighborhoods. She especially wants to help break through the stigmas around discussing mental health within her South-Asian community. Sumaiya is also an S. Jay Levy Fellow for Future Leaders. Her experiences at CCNY continue to fuel and inspire her passion for social change, justice, and reform.

Zine Ebersohn

Zine Ebersohn is a Junior Psychology-Philosophy major that believes in the power of the unknown. Born and raised in South Africa, Zine’s parents made her dream theirs, and they worked hard to help her run after the things that were important to her. The diversity and humanity of the students at CCNY make Zine feel at home. The Colin Powell School opens its door to the curious, the brave, and most importantly, the dreamers. Zine wants to specialize in Aerospace Psychology with a focus on the behavioral elements of human beings in extreme circumstances. She is also passionate about fighting child abuse and advocating for mental health services amongst minorities. If she could, Zine would still play with Barbie while she fixes all the problems of the world in her little room in South Africa. Nevertheless, that is why she is at CCNY, to ask questions and hopefully find some answers in between the chaos of life’s beauty.

Samantha Cajamarca

Samantha Cajamarca is a rising junior majoring in Sociology. Samantha’s passion for public service stemmed from her missionary trip to Ecuador, where she provided communities with food and clothes. Throughout her trip, she noted how populations struggled to survive in a world without adequate resources for their development and growth. Her perspective on life changed soon after that, and one day, she hopes to improve the health of others by encouraging healthier lifestyles, preventing diseases, and prolonging life through organized government efforts. Becoming a medical doctor aims to create a healthier world with good water sources, adequate healthcare, and a place where future generations thrive because everyone deserves the fundamental right to live a long, healthy life.

2022-2023 Colin Powell Fellows (Year 2)

Alexander Pichol

Alexander Pichol was born in Guatemala, and at the age of 16 immigrated to the United States. Alexander grew up in a large and poor family. The lack of opportunities due to economical struggles did not allow Alexander to continue his education which drove him to pursue the American Dream. Since he arrived in the US, Alexander has mastered the English language and attained an Associate’s Degree. He is now working towards his Bachelor’s Degree at CCNY, where he is a Dobrich New Americans fellow, pursuing a major in Architecture. Alexander’s background makes him very passionate about the issue of poverty and he plans to join the fight against this issue with a particular focus on helping children from poor communities have the opportunity to pursue an education. Being part of CCNY and the Colin Powell School has been an incredible experience for Alexander. He is learning how to be a leader in public service and how to succeed in his academic and professional goals.

C. Alex Keating

C. Alex Keating is a senior and non-traditional first-generation student returning to school after a thirty-two-year career as a celebrity makeup artist and groomer. Their struggle as LGBTQ+ youth inspired them to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies from The Colin Powell School at The City College of New York. They intend to earn a  Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling. As a therapist, they hope to support LGBTQ+ youth through a trauma-informed, queer, intersectional, anti-racist, anti-oppressive, and decolonized lens. As a consultant, they intend to help shape how schools support students’ mental health. Alex is a multi-disciplinary artist and servant to two royal felines.

Esmirna Mateo

Esmirna Mateo is a political science major with a minor in earth atmospheric sciences. She was raised in the Bronx, where she often visited the botanical gardens and helped her father grow their garden in their house. As she continued her studies, she learned about the environmental disparities within different boroughs around the city, encouraging her to pursue that idea through a political lens. In her free time, she enjoys traveling to other states, cooking new recipes, acting in theater productions, reading books, and playing video games.

Ingrid Romero

Ingrid Romero is an artist, educator, and organizer, born and raised in new york city – the unceded, traditional lands of the Munsee/Lenape – with deep roots in the Andes of Colombia. They have been organizing for fifteen years and bring ten years of facilitation and youth work experience. Ingrid is currently finishing their bachelor’s degree in art education as a non-traditional student and part of the inaugural cohort of the movement leaders fellowship at the leadership center for social justice.

Kimberly Pereyra Monero

Kimberly Pereyra Monero is a Senior majoring in political science and minoring in community change. As a minority, Kimberly has seen the struggles that her society faces as a result of gun and domestic violence. She believes that in the face of these issues, minorities cannot depend on the system, and when they do, it fails to do them justice. As the daughter of two immigrants, Kimberly has fought hard to make them proud and use her story as fuel for her interests and desires. Seeing the beauty in diversity, Kimberly decided to attend CCNY, hoping to meet people as passionate as her and connect with others through their struggles as minorities too. Kimberly applied to this fellowship to be part of those who fight for change and to dismantle a system that is not competent and reliable enough to support communities that are in severe need and that deserves much more than what is currently being given to them. Besides advocacy, Kimberly loves her Dominican culture and enjoys Spanish literature. When she is not advocating for change or reading, she is spending time with her parents, who recently moved to the United States to support her dream of one day becoming a lawyer.

Nija Daniels

Nija Daniels, an East Elmhurst resident, was born in New York to Jamaican immigrants. She is a senior at CCNY, majoring in international studies and double minoring in English and human rights. Nija is a Dobrich New Americans fellow, S Jay Levy fellow, Skadden scholar, and Jeannette K. Watson fellow. Passionate about law, she founded and is the current President of the CCNY Pre-Law Club. The Pre-Law Club aims to create a safe space, allowing like-minded peers to gather, network with professionals, and share opportunities. Nija’s past experiences and education at CCNY have inspired her to view business law as a way to help under-resourced entrepreneurs, create generational wealth in marginalized community groups, and help mitigate poverty worldwide. Combining her education in international studies and aspiration to attend law school, Nija intends to provide access to legal aid to disadvantaged communities and those in need of new opportunities to succeed in life.

Ondrea Kanwhen

Ondrea Kanwhen is an electrical engineering major who is passionate about expanding the implementation of large-scale renewable energy projects. Her long-term goal is to start a renewable energy utility company to provide services to underserved communities. She is a researcher at the Smart Grid Interdependencies Lab, focusing on incorporating resiliency and energy efficiency in the Food Energy Water nexus. Ondrea is a certified solar installer and volunteers with Grid Alternatives to provide low-cost solar to low- and moderate-income households. As a Colin Powell Fellow at City College, she also plans to pursue policy change that improves the availability and affordability of renewable energy.