Monday, March 27, 2017

Press Release/PSA: New American Welcome Center coming to C-U

Press Release
For Immediate Release
March 28, 2017

For media inquiries, contact: Megan Flowers, University Y Communications Director

New American Welcome Center coming to C-U
Community Leaders Join University YMCA Initiative

[Champaign County, Illinois] The University YMCA was recently selected to be one of six YMCAs in the United States to develop a New American Welcome Center (NAWC) in 2017. Launched in 2016 by YMCA of the USA, the New American Welcome Centers are designed to help immigrants fully integrate into American society and prepare receiving communities to be welcoming and inclusive. The University YMCA invites the public to a first opportunity to support this work. Celebrate and support the elevation of this community initiative in Champaign County by joining the University YMCA for their 16th Annual Dinner & Auction: WELCOME HOME on April 8, 2017. Please RSVP by March 31st at Questions about the event? Contact Jennifer Romine at

Pictured left to right include some members of the University YMCA NAWC Advisory Committee: Koeli Goel, Board of Trustees, Hindu Temple and Cultural Society of Central Illinois; Deb Feinen, Mayor of Champaign; Amanda Harris, Urbana Adult Education Center; Julie Pryde, Health Administrator, CU Public Health District, Megan Flowers, Communications Director, University YMCA; Rebekah Niblock, Attorney, The Immigration Project; Mike Doyle, Executive Director, University YMCA; Ricardo Diaz, Chair, University YMCA Advisory Committee; Lucia Maldonado, Board Member, CU Immigration Forum; Laurel Prussing, Mayor of Urbana; Carol Ammons, Illinois State Representative for the 103rd District; Joe Omo-Osagie, Board Member, Champaign County Mental Health Board.
In support of the Y’s cause to strengthen communities, NAWCs foster an environment that encourages newcomer integration and community cohesion. NAWCs accomplish this by scaling sustainable newcomer inclusion programs through a blend of direct and referral services, engaging community partners and leading community bridge-building efforts that connect new immigrants and the receiving communities. Champaign-Urbana will join the success of the national Y’s NAWCs that already serve communities in Boston (MA), Charlotte (NC), Columbus (OH), Houston (TX), Long Beach (CA), Los Angeles (CA), Minneapolis-St. Paul (MN), New York (NY), Portland (ME), Seattle (WA), and Snohomish County (WA).

"At the Y, we believe communities are strongest when everyone feels valued, has support to reach their potential and can fully participate in society. The University YMCA in Urbana-Champaign is a champion of newcomer inclusion and building bridges between communities and we are thrilled to welcome them to the Y's national New American Welcome Center network," said Tom Valentine, Vice President, International Group, YMCA of the USA.

In an effort to engage key community stakeholders, the University YMCA has recruited a broad cross section of community leaders including elected officials, public and private sector institutions, immigrant and religious leaders as well as non-profits working with local immigrant communities to serve on the NAWC’s Advisory Board (see attached list).

“The University YMCA is excited with the positive response we have received from community leaders who have expressed a real desire to work together to lift up and build out our collective welcoming efforts. There is a recognition that our community is more vibrant and prosperous when everyone feels welcomed and can fully participate,” said Mike Doyle, Executive Director of the University YMCA.

American communities are changing rapidly. By 2050, the Asian population in the US will grow by 300% and Latinos will make up 30% of the US population. Right now, 24% of children in the U.S. live in an immigrant family. Effective engagement of newcomer and immigrant communities is a crucial part of local municipalities’ abilities to attract and retain newcomers, remain relevant, and make a positive difference in the lives of community members.

Ricardo Diaz, Chair of the University YMCA NAWC Advisory Committee speaks about the importance of this work
at the NAWC launch press conference on Monday, March 27, 2017 at the University YMCA. Pictured left to right:
 Deb Feinen, Mayor of Champaign, Assata Zerai, Associate Chancellor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,
Mike Doyle, Executive Director of the University YMCA, Carol Ammons, Illinois State Representative of the 103rd District,
Laurel Prussing, Mayor of Urbana, and Bob Rasmus, Pastor, St. Matthew Lutheran Church. 

“We are in a pivotal point in time to advance our shared mission to serve everyone, including newcomers, and local leadership understands that To cooperatively and proactively welcome and support immigrant communities is an investment in the thriving future of our towns, our university, our economy, and our neighborhoods. That’s why it’s so important to reach out, build understanding and trust, and tailor programs, practices, and policies to meet the needs of all community members,” said Ricardo Diaz, Chair of the University YMCA NAWC Advisory Committee.

New American Welcome Center
Advisory Committee Members
Partial List - 3/20/17

* Scott Bennett, State Senator
* Carol Ammons, State Representative
* Pius Weibel, Board Chair, Champaign County
* Deb Feinen, Mayor, City of Champaign
* Laurel Prussing, Mayor, City of Urbana
* Assata Zerai, Associate Chancellor, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
* Don Owen, Superintendent, Urbana School District
* Julie Pryde, Health Administrator, C-U Public Health District
* Joe Omo-Osagie, Board Member, Champaign County Mental Health Board
* Jen White, President, Champaign Federation of Teachers, Local 1925
* Craig Rost, Executive Director, Champaign County Economic Development Corp.
* Laura Bliell, Associate Director, UI research Park
* Mauricio Salinas, Owner, El Oasis
* Luis Cuza, St. Patrick Catholic Church, C-U FAIR
* Ousmane Sawadogo, Imam, Central Illinois Mosque & Islamic Center
* Bob Rasmus, Pastor, St. Matthew Lutheran
* Alan Cook, Sinai Temple Rabbi, Interfaith Alliance of Champaign County
* Koeli Goel, Board of Trustees, Hindu Temple & Cultural Society of Central Illinois
* Ricardo Diaz, Board Member, University Y
* Bob Kirby, ESL Program, First Presbyterian Church
* Rebekah Niblock, Attorney, The Immigration Project
* Thomas Mbongo, Community Leader, Congolese Community
* Amanda Harris, ELA Coordinator, Urbana Adult Education
* Lucia Maldonado, Board Member, C-U Immigration Forum
* Ha Ho, Co-Director, East Central Illinois Refugee & Mutual Assistance Center
* Antonio Juarez, Community Leader, Mayan/Guatemalan Community

* Confirmed as NAWC Advisory Committee Member

Please note: Meetings with other community stakeholders are scheduled and additional invitations are expected to be extended in the coming weeks.

For more information, read the University YMCA's NAWC Frequently Asked Questions sheet (pdf) and