University YMCA selected for startup program


Ryan Fang

Outside of the YMCA of the University of Illinois. Three Spinners Inc., located inside of the YMCA, opened a community resource center in an effort to provide a more inclusive, welcoming environment.

By Jessica Bursztynsky, News Editor

The University YMCA was selected as one of six locations for the New American Welcome Center, a program created in 2016 that was designed to help immigrants feel more welcome in communities.

The startup center is focused on helping both immigrants integrate into their new towns as well as providing community members with the knowledge needed to be more inclusive.

“The New American Welcome Centers are designed to strengthen immigrant access to vital social services by scaling successful, sustainable Y newcomer inclusion programs and community partnerships,” a March 17 press release said. “This happens through a blend of direct and referral services, customized program innovations, community bridge-building efforts to connect new immigrants and the receiving communities, and facility and community-based activities that foster integration.”

Through this program, direct services are expected to be offered to 4,000 new immigrants and 1,200 local community members in the first year, according to the press release.

“Right now, the Y is forming a multi-sector advisory council for us to get together and think about services, activities and forms of coordinated delivery that are mutually supportive for newcomers and receiving communities of Champaign County,” said Megan Flowers, Communications Director and Immigrant Friendly Communities Coordinator.

Across Wright Street, Urbana is classified as a sanctuary city, a status which states a city provide services to immigrants without question of immigration status.

Aside from the physical Champaign-Urbana location, programs will be offered in Boston, Charlotte, Columbus (OH), Houston, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York, Portland, Seattle and Snohomish County (WA).

“In December (2016) we were notified that they (YMCA USA) selected our community and our Y to welcome immigrants into the community,” said Mike Doyle, University YMCA executive director.

The YMCA is creating their program with a two-part strategy, “program integration pathways” and “coordinated service delivery.”

The program integration pathways have five points it is aiming to improve the lives of immigrants including helping English proficiency, job training, the promotion of healthy lifestyles, promoting an active civic lifestyle and making sure communities are actively including immigrants.

In regards to coordinated service delivery, the YMCA is focusing on delivering programs directly from YMCA staff, directing immigrants to vetted services and creating services between communities and immigrants in a variety of ways.

“Organizing around these two frameworks has allowed the (New American Welcome Centers) to simultaneously create a common brand and commitment to new immigrant integration, while also allowing for customizable flexibility based on community need, existing available services, and the organizational strengths of the local Y,” according to the Mar. 17 press release.

Luke Cooper contributed to this report. 

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