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Seven Miami Dade College Students Selected as US-Brazil Connect Fellows


Miami, June 3, 2014 - Seven Miami Dade College (MDC) students are currently preparing for their roles as US-Brazil Connect Community College Fellows this summer. The students will spend 20 weeks coaching Brazilian students in English via social media and on the ground in Brazil.  

MDC is one of six community colleges participating in the innovative US-Brazil Connect Fellowship program, which builds long-term partnerships with Brazil through paid fellowships. The US-Brazil Connect Fellows from the college are Alejandro Laverde, Arju Yodasto, Melissa Nicole Torres, Lilliana Galo, Joaquin Pannunzio, Maria Caballero and Paulina Rios. They will be coaching Brazilian students in Porto Velho in the Brazilian state of Rondônia and are preparing for the experience by writing coaching plans, practicing team dynamics and learning about Brazilian culture. 

“MDC students are playing an essential role in connecting our communities and countries. We are extremely proud to partner with the US-Brazil Connect Community College Fellowship program,” said MDC President Dr. Eduardo J. Padrón. “These students are living proof that citizen-diplomacy works to build bridges across borders.”


Twenty years ago, community colleges prepared students for a mostly localized job market. But as technology has reduced distances between geographic regions, community colleges have sought programs that prepare students to solve problems that span the boundaries of language and culture, explained Dr. Mary Gershwin, president of US-Brazil Connect.

Yet finding such opportunities hasn’t always come easily to U.S. community colleges.

“While understanding the imperatives of a global workforce, community colleges need opportunities for global leadership that are accessible and affordable,” said Gershwin.

To meet those requirements, US-Brazil Connect partners with Brazilian industry groups to cover the cost of the fellows’ lodging and meals while paying them a small stipend for their work. 

Brazilian industry leaders are funding educational opportunities for U.S. community college students because they see English language skills as crucial to the long-term success of Brazilian students preparing to enter STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math), per Gershwin. Investing in U.S. students is an investment in their own.

With a technical workforce that can compete in a globalized economy, Brazilian industry leaders believe their country can continue the remarkable growth in its middle class. The addition of 30 million people to the middle class in the last 10 years has made Brazil the third-largest market for mobile phones and the fifth-largest market for computers and automobiles. Economists expect Brazil’s economy will exceed that of the U.K. and France by 2030.

That economic surge has made Brazil a favored ally in the eyes of U.S. educators and policymakers as they search for ideas to prepare the Western Hemisphere’s next workforce for a globalized economy.

To match Brazilian commitment, US-Brazil Connect selected a diverse group of community college students who showed deep interest in cross-cultural leadership and potential dedication to their Brazilian pupils. This year’s fellows come from a range of disciplines, including nursing, engineering, biology and the humanities. 

Miami Dade College (MDC) is the higher education institution with the largest undergraduate enrollment in the America, with more than 165,000 students. It is also the nation’s top producer of Associate in Arts and Associate in Science degrees and awards more degrees to minorities than any other college or university in the country. The college’s seven campuses and numerous outreach centers offer more than 300 distinct degree pathways, including several baccalaureate degrees in education, public safety management, supervision and management, nursing, physician assistant studies, electronics engineering technology, biological sciences and others. In fact, its academic and workforce training programs are national models of excellence. MDC is also renowned for its rich cultural programming. It is home of Miami Book Fair International (MBFI), Miami International Film Festival (MIFF), MDC Live Arts performing arts series, the National Historic Landmark Freedom Tower, a major sculpture park, and large art gallery and theater systems. MDC has admitted more than 2 million students since it opened its doors in 1960. For more information, please visit


US-Brazil Connect seeks to build educational and economic opportunities by connecting communities, engaging leaders and creating transformational learning experiences linking the United States and Brazil. Since 2011, US-Brazil Connect has created innovative exchanges to engage more than 3,000 participants from the U.S. and Brazil.


The Brazilian National Confederation of Industry (CNI) is the preeminent Brazilian industry association, representing more than 200,000 industry establishments. CN­­I is responsible for the establishment and maintenance of the National Service for Industrial Apprenticeship (SENAI), which provides education and training to nearly 3 million Brazilian professionals each year. As part of the Brazilian Industry system, the Social Service of Industry (SESI) promotes social welfare, cultural development and improved quality of life of workers in participating industries and their communities. Through its national network, SESI provided education to more than 1.7 million Brazilians in 2010. 

For more information about this program, please contact the MDC Office of International Education at 305-237-3008.

Media-only contacts:
Juan Mendieta, 305-237-7611,, MDC communications director
Tere Estorino Florin, 305-237-3949,, MDC media relations director
Sue Arrowsmith, 305-237-3710,, media specialist
Roxana Romero, 305-237-3366,, media specialist

Miami Dade College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award associate and baccalaureate degrees.
Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Miami Dade College.
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