Impact stories from

NHTI - Concord's Community College


NHTI Opened Doors for Trailblazer Ali Sekou

Ali Sekou personifies the classic American success story. He emigrated to New Hampshire from Niger in 2012. He arrived speaking little English, but through education and hard work, he became a pillar of the community.  Today, Ali is the youngest councilor elected to Concord’s City Council Ward 8, as well as the council’s first Muslim, Black and immigrant representative and Mayor Pro Tem of Concord. Among many, many other achievements, he is also Manager of Community Engagement and Inclusion at New Hampshire Housing; a board member for the Community Loan Fund and the Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success; a 2024 inductee to US Global Leadership Coalition’s (USGLC) Next Generation Global Leaders Network; president of Islamic Society of Greater Concord; and is newly appointed to the advisory board for NHTI – Concord’s Community College – all while raising two young children with his wife.

Ali admits that he is juggling a lot but says he is committed to giving back to a community that has given him so much. “The New Hampshire community embraced what I had to offer and saw something in me that I had not seen. So many people urged me on and helped me to be who I am today,” he explains.

Ali credits NHTI – Concord’s Community College for setting him on his current path. After he arrived in the U.S., Ali enrolled in English as a Second Language (ESL) classes in Laconia and was accepted to Plymouth State University. When tuition to Plymouth State proved out of reach, Mark Okrant, then a professor of Tourism Management at the university, suggested that Ali explore community college as a more affordable way to earn a degree.

Ali enrolled in the hospitality and tourism program at NHTI and says he fell in love. “I loved all the resources and the education, but also how people were ready to help. I got very involved and when you get that involved, it starts to feel like family.”

Ali was still learning English when he enrolled at NHTI, and ESL classes were part of his academic requirements. He praises his professors for understanding his cultural and language challenges, saying, “I had amazing, outstanding professors who were supportive, flexible, and dedicated to the well-being and learning of all of their students.”

NHTI’s library and learning center became Ali’s home away from home.  While he continued to polish his English, he tutored others in French, just one of the four languages he speaks fluently. He joined the Cultural Exchange Club, was elected to the Student Senate, served as an orientation leader, and earned the English as Secondary to Other Languages (ESOL) Award for academic excellence.

Ali immersed himself in the culture at NHTI, but cultural immersion in the U.S. came through Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), the international honor society for two-year colleges.  Ali was elected vice president for the PTK Association of Northern New England, the first time a NHTI PTK member was ever elected to regional office. As a regional vice president, Ali traveled to conferences nationwide and interacted with people from all over, acquiring the leadership skills he draws from today. “My experiences shaped my leadership and shaped me,” he says.

In 2015, Ali graduated with honors from NHTI with an associate degree in hospitality and tourism.  A merit-based Presidential Scholarship helped him continue his education at Plymouth State University, where he received a bachelor’s degree with a major in tourism management and a minor in political science in 2017.  Mentors encouraged him to continue his education and Ali received his master’s degree in community development and policy from the University of New Hampshire just two years later.

Ali says it was a blessing to start with NHTI and then continue at Plymouth State, both because it gave him a strong foundation for learning and for the support and encouragement it provided. “I never thought that somebody learning English and just surviving could take a leadership role and be involved, but somebody was always approaching me to say, ‘I think you can do this; I think you should run for this.’ It was the first blessed step of my life here in the United States.”

Ali is quick to share credit for his successes with everyone who supported him along the way, including NHTI and business community mentors and, most significantly, his wife Fatimat Sekou. “I give credit to my wife for giving me the opportunity to volunteer and give back to the community,” he says.

A few key mentors, such as Tom Raffio, president and CEO of Northeast Delta Dental, played a transformative role in his life, and Ali wants to return the favor. He now mentors others in the immigrant community and frequently touts the benefits of community college. “I always say to the immigrant community to start with community college because it is less expensive, it is a great education, and it is where things happen because it is community-oriented.”

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