Submitted by eschneider on Thu, 06/24/2021 - 12:24
AmeriCorps staff

AmeriCorps and its members reflect the wide range of cultures found throughout America. Immigrant innovators, workers, entrepreneurs, and community leaders help us, feed us, and care for us, advance our thinking, and break new ground. These leaders are at the heart of AmeriCorps. These leaders are made in AmeriCorps. 

"It was my dream that one day I could be here and help people.” 

As an AmeriCorps member, Fatemeh is living her dream. For the second time.  

After her family escaped from Afghanistan, Fatemeh arrived with her family to Albany, New York in 2019. This year, Fatemeh begins her second summer as an AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate at the Refugee Welcome Center – the same place that offered her family support.   

Fatemeh’s service journey with the Refugee Welcome Center is not by chance. It’s exactly how Vera Eccarius-Kelly, Ph.D. envisioned it. As the faculty mentor for the Siena Project Incubator, one of Dr. Eccarius-Kelly’s goals is to impact the life trajectory of teenage, resettled refugees—particularly when it comes to attending college. By engaging AmeriCorps members like Fatemeh, who are either current or recent college students, she believes that preconceived notions young refugees have about the limited possibilities for their lives can be broken.  

“When you have resettled refugees who are in the United States and they successfully enter college or graduate from college and then participate in these teams, that is a highly visual sign and message that goes out to the families that you can achieve in this country," said Eccarius-Kelly.  

At the Siena Project Incubator , AmeriCorps members work on projects that ultimately get “spun out” over the course of the school year with the help of students and volunteers. Last summer, an AmeriCorps SPIn project was initiated with the Refugee Welcome Center. The project has three important goals: resettle refugees to become members of the community; spark social cohesion so community members get to know resettled refugees and feel confident that they are good neighbors; and collect information about the specific needs newly arriving refugee families express. 

The AmeriCorps SPIn project is just one example of the ways AmeriCorps members are using their unique talents and skills for the betterment of the refugee and immigrant communities. The American story includes the story of families who ventured here — whether it be centuries ago, or recently — like Fatemeh’s — from every part of the world who continue to enrich the fabric of our nation. And AmeriCorps service exposes members to new experiences, people of diverse backgrounds and knowledge about their communities. 

Join with AmeriCorps to celebrate the values and opportunities that immigrants bring to communities around the country – and honor those core values they share that drive service every day.  

To those like Fatemeh who dream of helping people: AmeriCorps can make that a reality.