Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The 2nd Annual Immigrant Welcome Awards Ceremony

Left to right: Leadership Award-Lucia Maldonaldo; Institutional Award: International Prep Academy for Newcomers, Champaign School District, Unit 4; Distinguished Service Award-Bob Kirby; Community Organization Award-New Americans ESL at First Presbyterian Church in Champaign; Business Leadership Award-Sister, Sister African Hair Braiding; Student Leadership Award-Alberto Lara Valdivieso 

On September 12, 2015, the CU Immigration Forum hosted the 2nd Immigrant Welcome Awards Celebration at the Crystal Lake Boathouse in Urbana. 

The CU Immigration Forum would like to thank the City of Champaign and the City of Urbana for sponsoring the event, for all of the talented performers, and everyone for coming out in support of making the Cities of Champaign and Urbana more immigrant friendly place.

At the celebration, attendees got together to play the More Than One Story card game to learn more about each other and as a starting point for discussing the importance of awakening empathy and compassion for our unique experiences.

CU Immigration Forum President Tom Garza then announced that the cities of Champaign and Urbana signed a joint proclamation honoring September 12 at Immigrant Welcome Day and in dedicating their cities to becoming a Welcoming City as part of the Welcoming America initiative for cities and counties across the United States. Urbana City Council Member Charlie Smyth attended the event and read the proclamation.

 More information about Welcoming America can be found here.

The CU Immigration Forum's Immigrant Welcome Celebration recognizes the contributions of individuals and organizations that have created a welcoming atmosphere for immigrants in the Champaign-Urbana community. CUIF is proud to celebrate the accomplishments of the following individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions, taken risks, and have provided leadership for the wellbeing and success of immigrants in Champaign County.

Congratulations to the 2015 Immigrant Welcome Award Winners!

Student Leadership Award - student who has shown promise as an important leader in immigrationissues, locally or beyond

Alberto Lara Valdivieso – a University of Illinois student who has engaged the Latino/a community both on and off campus. He is an exceptional student and a role model for many. Alberto recently started a project at Champaign School District Unit 4, called Nuestra Raises Latinas, to motivate Latino/a immigrants to pursue higher education. In addition, he is member of the La Casa Cultural Latino Youth Conference Committee, a program that brings more than 200 Latino High School Students to campus during the Spring semester.  He is also a volunteer for La Casa’s Pen Pal program where he engages K-5 students to practice their Language Art skills for the Dual/Bilingual program in Champaign and Urbana.

Business Leadership Award - A business that contributes to the local immigrant community through advocacy, donations or in-kind services and/or a locally owned immigrant owned business that has contributed to the local economic development of CU.

Sister Sister African Hair Braiding - Since 2005, Sister Sister has trained immigrants in the skill of African hair braiding. Most of the immigrant trainees are from the Congo and several other French speaking African countries. The owners, Fanta and Suke, enable the trainees to both draw on skills from their home countries and learn to develop styles that cater to U.S. tastes. Sister Sister offers a high quality hair braiding service and a supportive entry point for new immigrants to adapt to a new place and be gainfully employed.

Institutional Award – Local government or other large community institution, which has made significant changes in response to the growing immigrant population.

International Prep Academy for Newcomers, Champaign School District, Unit 4 - The newly created Newcomers classroom housed at Columbia School serves children from 4th to 8th grades who are learning English and often times having to catch-up with academic basics. Student comes from very diverse circumstances and countries. Effective teaching requires not only assessing the academic strengths and weakness of students, but also developing a relationship with many families and working with social service and other resource providers to make sure the students have everything they need to succeed in school.

Community Organization Award – A Nonprofit or community-based organization, which demonstrates exceptional commitment to serving and advocating for local immigrants

New Americans English as a Second Language at First Presbyterian Church Champaign  - The New Americans ESL program offers formal English Classes for immigrants, refugees and international visitors of all faiths and all nations. The curriculum focuses on life skills, jobs and acculturation for students with beginning to high intermediate proficiency. This is a free community program, childcare is provided during classes, and it is all funded by private gifts. During the period September through June 183 students enrolled representing 33 countries (Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Chile, China, Colombia, Cuba, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Morocco, Palestine, Paraguay, Poland, Romania, Russia, Somalia, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Vietnam). One paid teacher and 27 community volunteers make this all possible.

Leadership Award – An individual who has been a strong leader in the immigrant community.

Lucia Maldonado – works as a liaison for the Latino families in the Urbana School District. Lucia is a tireless leader and dedicated advocate for the local immigrant community. She works countless hours supporting immigrant families in Urbana schools, making the children and families get the information they need to successfully navigate their lives in a new country. For several years now she has coordinated visits of the Chicago based Mexico and Guatemala Consulates. Additionally, she has served on several local organization boards that serve our community. She cares for each and every family as if they were her own.

Distinguished Service Award – An individual who has demonstrated long-term commitment to the local immigrant community.

Dr. Bob Kirby  - As a lay leader at First Presbyterian of Champaign, he has encouraged members of his congregation to be actively involved in immigration justice and advocacy issues – holding ESL classes at the church and helping immigrant individuals and families, organizing panels and screening documentaries on the need for immigration reform, leading delegations of church members to work with immigration rights groups assisting immigrants on the Mexican border, and raising funds for various local initiatives. His church each year collects coats and other winter gear for families assisted by the East Central Illinois Mutual Assistance and Refugee Center.