YMCA hosts press conference in regards to New American Welcome Center


Jessica Jutzi

Local politicians, and members of the community announce the opening of the New American Welcome Center at the YMCA.

By Jessica Berbey, Assistant Daytime Editor

On Monday, March 27, the University YMCA held a press conference to officially announce the opening of the New American Welcome Center.

Among those in attendance were State Representative, Carol Ammons; Associate Chancellor, Assata Zerai; Urbana Mayor, Laurel Prussing; Champaign Mayor, Deborah Feinen and others in support of the center.

“I am delighted to represent the University as we mark the announcement of the new welcome center, “ Zerai said. “Over 10,000 students and 2,400 scholars come from more than 110 countries from around the world to study and work at the University.”

Through the New American Welcome Center, the YMCA aims to serve newcomers and immigrants in the community without questioning their legal status.

The center will be both a physical and virtual space. The programs will not be contained to one building or location, but instead be integrated into all aspects of life within the Champaign-Urbana community.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
Thank you for subscribing!

The main goal of the center is to ensure that services for immigrants are easily accessible.

“We have a wealth of resources on our campus to welcome and support our international community members,” Zerai said. “We know that we are stronger, smarter, and better when we bring international scholars together to tackle the grand challenges of our time.

Zerai said that because the University is such a large, complex institution, students, faculty and staff face many dilemmas upon arrival.

“Providing these resources is a wonderful way of ensuring residents that we are excited to have them as our colleagues, classmates, and friends,” she said.

The University YMCA will continue to support immigrants through existing programs such as La Linea, the Spanish language community helpline, and sponsor services such as “Community Interpreter Training,” while implementing new programs to identify gaps in the services offered in an attempt to strengthen and possibly expand services to meet the needs of local immigrant communities.

“This is a long time coming, it’s not a new idea but certainly a continuation of an old one. Eight years later, we stand here, finally welcoming our new center,” Ammons said.

Joe Omo-Osagie, advisory board member, said that the New American Welcome Center is essential because it allows for the opportunity to start learning about different cultures, while remaining true to one’s own culture.

“As an immigrant who first came here from Nigeria over thirty years ago, there were not too many places where I could go to get food similar to the one back home. Getting to know the community was also really difficult.

Omo-Osagie said that sticking to one’s culture is a personal choice, however, a person is going to be learning about and surrounded by a new culture. It is never one or the other. It’s about bringing them both together.

The YMCA believes that communities are at their strongest when everyone has an opportunity to contribute and when people from different backgrounds work together.

“One of the things we don’t seek too well in this community is that people from smaller groups do not have the social structure to integrate, so hopefully this new center will be a starting point,”  Omo-Osagie said. Especially with the current social and political atmosphere, this is important.

[email protected]