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Ohio Welcomes - and Listens to - New Americans

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On Wednesday, July 18, our first event took us to the Cleveland Public Library on Superior Avenue where we attended a listening session hosted by Global Cleveland and organized by the Ohio Development Services Agency on behalf of the Office of Opportunities for New Americans recently created by Ohio Governor John R. Kasich.

According to the website, the Office of Opportunities for New Americans is part of the Development Services Agency and focuses on making sure new Ohioans are job ready by coordinating existing efforts at state level, communicating with immigrant support groups, and by identifying and tearing down barriers that prevent or impede immigrants' integration into our society.

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Ms. Padmini Roy-Dixon, Chief of Business Services Division of the Development Services Agency and an immigrant from India, conducted the hour and a half program which encouraged attendees who immigrated to the United States/Ohio from other countries to speak out about the challenges and successes they have experienced since coming here. Ms. Roy-Dixon mentioned that today's session is the third one that has taken place after those conducted in Dayton and Akron.

Accordingly, we listened to the stories of people who immigrated to the United States from such countries as Albania, Nepal, Vietnam, Mexico, Iraq, and Morocco. Commonalities that stood out to us were frustration over the lack of connectivity, communication and knowledge about the availability of resources; discouragement about how their credentials/college degrees, hard-earned in their countries-of-origin, are often not recognized here; and, despite their qualifications, having to undergo the grueling process of finding employers willing to hire them and sponsor them so they can move to the next level pertaining to visas and green cards.

In addition to Ms. Roy-Dixon, prominent leaders who attended this meeting included Mr. John Carey, Chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education; Ms. Lyn Tolan, Deputy Director for Policy and Communication at the Development Services Agency; Mr. Joe Cimperman, President of Global Cleveland; Ms. Anne M. Dean, Assistant Registrar of the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles; and Mr. Felton Thomas, Jr., CEO of the Cleveland Public Library.

From talking to such officials, before and after the listening session, we learned that in terms of helping newly-arrived immigrants it has been discovered that, although there are commonalities, one size doesn't fit all, thus it is important that proper navigators be in place in order to guide the foreign-born through such areas as education, employment, governmental agencies, housing, transportation, and health care.

Attending this program was our friend, Ms. Nadia Kasvin, Co-Founder of US Together, which aids refugees. Ms. Kasvin, an immigrant from Ukraine, thanked all of the participants for sharing their stories and recognizing that this takes courage because it inevitably leads to curiosity and questions. Nevertheless, only through sharing and listening can we move forward.

 

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison

Margaret W. Wong & Associates, LLC

Aimee Jannsohn