12 Philly immigrants who are ready to mobilize - Generocity Philly

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Feb. 26, 2018 12:50 pm

12 Philly immigrants who are ready to mobilize

Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians' civic engagement training program, Immigrant Leadership Institute, just graduated its first cohort. Here's what its participants learned.

Immigrant Leadership Institute participant Khadija Ghanem.

(Photo by Brittany Barbato)

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services recently removed mention of the U.S. being “a nation of immigrants” from its mission statement. But the 25 participants of Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians’ Immigrant Leadership Institute know it still is.

We introduced you to Maria Eugenia Gonzalez last fall when she entered the civic engagement training program for immigrants working to break down barriers to citizenship in their Philadelphia communities.

And over the past few months, we’ve featured first-person essays from two other program participants and two Welcoming Center staffers on how the institute has impacted their worldviews:

The first Immigrant Leadership Institute cohort graduated last week. Now, hear from Maria and 11 other members on what they learned and what’s next.

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(All photos by Brittany Barbato)

Name: Maria Eugenia Gonzalez

Country: Venezuela

Moved to U.S.: 2016

What was the most impactful part of the leadership institute? The Institute made me realize the immigrants in our city have a lot of barriers, but we can work together to remove them.

What’s next? I have a passion to continue working with our community — to do more than I already have done.

Name: Fedeline Elveus

Country: Haiti

Moved to U.S.: 2013

What was the most impactful part of the leadership institute? The most meaningful part of the Institute was meeting different people from different backgrounds. We can represent. We can communicate with our community.

What’s next? For anybody who comes from a different place, I will help them with things like networking and finding the resources they need.

Name: Margarita Perez Lora

Country: Colombia

Moved to U.S.: 2010

What was the most impactful part of the leadership institute? The Institute answered the big question: What is my role as an immigrant? It was an awakening experience because, before, I was afraid to put myself out there. Now, I can inspire others like me. As immigrants, we have a lot to offer.

What’s next? I want to help other immigrants like me know that we have a place here.

Name: Monica Molina

Country: Colombia

Moved to U.S.: 2013

What was the most impactful part of the leadership institute? The Institute changed my mentality. I realized each of us has something to offer our community. The key is teamwork.

What’s next? I want to use my research from the Welcoming Center to talk with others about how to overcome the immigration gap.

Immigrant Leadership Institute participant Khadija Ghanem.

Name: Khadija Ghanem

Country: Yemen

Moved to U.S.: 2015

What was the most impactful part of the leadership institute? The lectures about the benefits of citizenship; learning about innovation and social media; taking part in an action project; learning how to prepare for an event; and learning about immigrant integration. This will help me be a leader in my community as I will be able to communicate to them about citizenship and increase their awareness. They will trust me and understand that I will guide them if they need me. I am a resource.

What’s next? I will start searching for people in my community — Yemeni people and other Arabic language speakers — and initiate a core group of people I can communicate what I have learned about at the Institute. This is important because people in the Arabic-speaking community live far apart from each other, but by having a core group we will be able to spread the message of what is being taught at the Institute.

Name: Cristina Zanoni

Country: Brazil

Moved to U.S.: 2017

What was the most impactful part of the leadership institute? The most impactful part of the Institute was becoming aware that I can make something happen here in the United States.

What’s next? When I came here, I called myself a foreigner. When I started to call myself an immigrant, I became part of a political movement and I want to continue with it.

Name: Katherine Prieto Celis

Country: Colombia

Moved to U.S.: 2016

What was the most impactful part of the leadership institute? I realized how much I can do for my community. I never viewed myself as a leader until I started this program. I have a lot of skills hidden inside me.

What’s next? Being a citizen isn’t just a piece of paper, it’s helping others. With all the tools I learned, I want to be a guide for my community.

Name: Reyna Hernandez

Country: Mexico

Moved to U.S.: 2011

What was the most impactful part of the leadership institute? Through the Institute, I met a lot of people who had issues that I thought only I had — I have more opportunity graduating from this program.

What’s next? I want to continue my education and open a daycare to help build bilingualism in the community.

Name: Ahmed DiDouche

Country: Algeria

Moved to U.S.: 2011

What was the most impactful part of the leadership institute? I gained confidence and friendship from the Institute. I learned to engage myself in the possible change of the social and political life of our city; I want to inspire other people to do the same.

What’s next? I will volunteer with the next ILI cohort to share my experience.

Name: Silvia Roldan

Country: Ecuador

Moved to U.S.: 2014

What was the most impactful part of the leadership institute? I learned and put into practice many skills. I found out I can be useful to my community, both Latinos and other immigrants.

What’s next? My dream is to work on projects that help the immigrant community — in particular families, kids and people who are in need.

Name: Alba Kuqi

Country: Albania

Moved to U.S.: 2013

What was the most impactful part of the leadership institute? The most impactful part of the Institute was meeting new people and gaining new experiences.

What’s next? I want to let other people know about this experience so they can get involved and engaged as well.

Name: Amanda Haynes-Rose

Country: Jamaica

Moved to U.S.: 1996

What was the most impactful part of the leadership institute? The most meaningful part of the Institute was sharing similar stories. I am my parents dream of being an immigrant and going to college. Having shared commonalities with my cohort made me more open to discussing how I feel about being an immigrant.

What’s next? I want to go back to school to do public policy. Working as an educator now, I realize many immigrants don’t understand the system.

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