Meet Our Civic Pathways Leaders: Shelleyan, Yilkal, and Ahmad

Say hello to Shelleyan! 

Shelleyan Lewars, originally from Jamaica, wanted to be more involved in civic engagement and get closer to her community by using her voice and helping those around her. New American Pathways and the Civic Pathways Leadership Program has motivated and inspired her to resolve issues within immigrant communities.

Shelleyan originally worked as a journalist and a communications practitioner in Jamaica, having an extensive background in media, public relations and marketing. After moving to the US in 2015 and having to wait a long amount of time before she was granted a permanent resident visa, she said “I wasn’t able to go to work or return to my career right away [because of the visa status] but now that I have my paperwork, it is still a process transitioning and finding a job that fits, but I know I have been engaged in some really significant roles that will help me transition here better.”

Shelleyan found New American Pathways in 2017 and later was introduced to the Civic Pathways Leadership Program. Wanting to help her immigrant community, she felt the Civic Pathways Leadership Program would give her the skills and platform to use her voice in order to share her own experiences and be a part of the transition process to the US.

“I thought I could use my extensive background with media to the benefit of my community as there are a lot of issues that confront us in our transition to the US. It starts with jobs, where your credentials might not look favorable because you’re from another country, or language could be a barrier. There are cultural barriers, so I want to be able to be in a position where I can build that bridge and bring everyone together in a way that is mutually beneficial.”

She also uses her passion to help others and skills from the Civic Pathways Program to follow her own dreams, sharing: “my big takeaway is definitely an emboldened voice. I needed that platform to give me authority to speak on these issues and this is a great platform to strengthen the voice I already have to benefit my community.” Shelleyan is planning on starting a feature program that will tell immigrant and refugee stories positioned to show people that “we are here to benefit the state of Georgia and not take from it, we are here to show our talents in whatever capacity to grow and develop the state.”

“New American Pathways has always had my back,” she said when describing her love for the organization. She plans to continue her relationship with New American Pathways and take the life changing skills she has learned to continue following her dreams.

Meet Yilkal! 

Yilkal Ademe, originally from Ethiopia, moved to Washington DC in 2012 to work in counseling services. He then moved with his family to Atlanta once they were granted resident status.

Having worked in many jobs like home care providing, program management, and elementary education, he motivated and pushed his kids to work hard and positively change within their environment.

Yilkal worked as a contractor for New American Pathways and while gaining this experience, he decided to join the Civic Pathways Leadership Program to further develop his leadership skills. “I really like the program. We are mostly involved in the community with refugees from different cultures and I thought it might be a good way for me to learn how to work with people and engage with my community. I really enjoy it and it’s a great program, he said when talking about Civic Pathways. “I am really involved in my community and I just wanted experience so I could continue to lead in other parts of my life.”

When talking about his major takeaways from the program, Yilkal highlighted his time working with refugees from different cultures and getting to know each person and their backgrounds, “If you want to lead the people you have to be involved with them.” He also feels he has shifted to a more conceptual and analytic leadership style, while still being able to listen and work with his peers.

Yilkal has always been passionate about helping his community members. “Immigrants come to the US and live with their own culture, but it’s important to adapt and know the US culture, how to work with a team and have experience working.”

He is thankful for the Civic Pathways Leadership Program for giving him this platform to where he can really focus on his passions like education, politics and community and use his leadership skills to make an impact on those around him and use his past experiences to help others have a successful future.

Meet Ahmad! 

Ahmad Nor Habibzai, originally from Afghanistan, has an extensive background working in the medical field before moving to the US in 2014.

Working closely with his community, he is appreciative of his experience with the Civic Pathways Leadership Program, which allowed him to get to know and work with refugees from different cultures and work with others. “You have to be involved and understand others in order to lead,” he said.

Ahmad has always been passionate about helping his community members, from supporting them in finding jobs or helping families pay rent, he plans on using his leadership skills to continue to speak up and inform refugee communities on transitioning to the US and advancing their careers and education.

Leading with a more collaborative style, Ahmad works best bouncing ideas off of peers and making decisions by working hands-on with others. “The leadership program is big and this training gets you far in everything” he said when speaking on the Civic Pathways Leadership Program.

Wanting the program to be more available to everyone on a wider scale, he feels everyone should experience the empowerment and motivation that the program instills in participants. Ahmad plans on using his leadership skills to speak up and create change within the education system and the transition immigrants go through when arriving in the states.

Speaking very passionately about education, he also shared that he feels there should be more motivation in school to keep kids moving throughout the entire school system into college. “If immigrants don’t find jobs they are always looked down upon” he said “which is why education and telling immigrant families about how important these schools are for their kids is necessary.”

Ahmad wants to use his leadership skills as a starting point to work more directly with the education system and politics. He feels his past experiences can help him bring a new perspective to the table, and thanks to the Civic Pathways Leadership Program he can achieve these goals.