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Student of the Month

February Student of the Month: Cathy Kacou

What is your background?: I spent most of my primary education in Maféré, a small village located in the southeast of Ivory Coast, before being awarded a government scholarship. This was a remarkable opportunity for me to attend one of the top high schools in the country, Lycee Classique D’Abidjan, which had always been my dream school. I spent three years there before proceeding to university. During my university years, I had the privilege of studying English for translation and interpretation. Following my studies, I obtained a job as a customer advisor.

What brought you to Kirkwood and why?: Having grown up in a small village in Ivory Coast with limited access to the internet and digital media, I have come to appreciate the value and significance of digital media in today’s world. I aspired to pursue studies in this field, but the school fees were quite expensive. In 2023, I discovered a program called the Community College Initiative Program (CCIP), sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. The CCIP offers participants from different countries the chance to study at a community college in the United States for one academic year. Alongside academics, the program places emphasis on cultural exchange, service learning, internships, leadership development, and community impact projects. I felt immense pride when I was selected to be a part of this program, which has provided me with the opportunity to study Social Media Marketing at Kirkwood Community College.

What is your program of study and what interests you about it?: I noticed that in Ivory Coast, the field of media is not sufficiently developed. The purpose is to learn the contrast between Ivory Coast media and USA media. Additionally, I have observed a growing trend of Ivorian (People living in Ivory Coast) companies promoting online businesses. Pursuing studies in the media field could present a significant opportunity for me, particularly in the business world. I am aware of the extensive internet usage among the youth, and it is projected to increase even further in the coming years.

Tell us about your study abroad experience in America. What was great about it?: My study abroad experience in America has been a transformative and rewarding chapter in my life. As I come from a French speaking country, it was challenging to understand American accent in the beginning and communicate easily. I missed my family and friends, as well as our local food, but I came to understand that stepping out of my comfort zone was a catalyst for personal growth. I have had the opportunity to immerse myself in a new culture and educational system totally different from Ivory Coast. The highlights include diverse academic opportunities, cultural exchange, personal growth, networking, and professional development. I have been able to pursue my chosen field of study, meet people from around the world, develop independence and resilience, and expand my professional network. Additionally, I have enjoyed exploring American culture, and participating in cultural and recreational activities. Overall, this study abroad gave a lasting impact on my personal and academic life.

Are you involved in anything on campus?: I was actively involved in the Newspaper Redaction Club, “The Communique,” where I contributed to brainstorming content ideas and capturing photographs. Subsequently, I began assisting in managing social media accounts for Kirkwood Business and IT department, focusing on content creation and design. Additionally, I participated in numerous cultural activities to share my own culture and educate others about Ivory Coast’s heritage. The most recent event took place on February 8th, 2024. Moreover, I dedicated my time to volunteering, accumulating numerous hours of service. Currently, I am working on a community impact project centered around mental health, aiming to support fellow Kirkwood students. Alongside these endeavors, I also volunteered for various nonprofit organizations, such as Feed Iowa First, Central Furniture Rescue, HACAP, and Walk to Defeat ALS. Notably, many of these organizations have connections to Kirkwood Community College.

What do you do for fun?: For leisure, I enjoy spending time with friends and fellow participants of the program. One of my favorite activities is working with the Cedar Rapids Public Library, particularly during events like the Cat Cafe. I also find pleasure in conducting online research on topics that I am passionate about, watching movies, and cherishing moments with the wonderful mentor family assigned to me by Kirkwood Community College.

Where do you see yourself in five years?: In five years, I aspire to achieve the following goals:

1) Develop an online system that provides access to information in local languages for the residents of my community. This is a pressing issue in Ivory Coast.

2) Collaborate primarily with women in rural areas for my initiative, aiming to make a positive impact on reducing the prevalence of forced marriages.