In 2007 Pactole Alison – a native of Madagascar, a small island country off the southeast coast of Africa -moved to the U.S. to be with his wife, who he met during her Peace Corps volunteer service in the country.

Those first couple of months in Washington, D.C. were very challenging. “When you don’t understand what people are saying, you don’t want to walk out the door. You don’t even want to go to the store, and you try to avoid questions because you don’t know how to respond,” he said.

To improve his English and learn more about navigating U.S. systems, Pactole enrolled in classes at the Carlos Rosario School just one month after arriving. He started in ESL level 6 and continued through level 8; in June 2010 Pactole graduated and was awarded a Carlos Rosario teacher-sponsored scholarship, which paid for an entire year of studies at University of District of Columbia-Community College.

While at the community college, as a 4.0 student and member of the international honor society organization Phi Theta Kappa, Pactole was awarded a Jack Kent Cooke scholarship to help him continue his studies. He applied this scholarship to a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance and International Business at Georgetown University, which he finished in December 2014. He went on to earn a Master’s Degree at the University of Maryland.

Pactole plans to return to his country this year and to run for president of Madagascar in 2018. With dreams stretching into the future, Pactole says, “I think that in the future my time at Carlos Rosario will be small compared to all that I will have achieved, but it will never be forgotten. It’s part of my story, my history, my background… If I didn’t take classes at Carlos Rosario I don’t know where I would have ended up.”