After receiving federal funding for 2017-19, NICE partnered with Peace Ambassadors USA (www.peaceambassadorsusa.org) to develop the Proactive Engagement to Achieve Community Empowerment (PEACE) Program. The program was one of only five to receive this funding nationally, and the only program in the South. Collectively, both NICE and Peace Ambassadors have 30+ years’ success in program and community outreach development for New Americans (refugees and immigrants). With strong connections to a diversity of nationalities, cultures, and ethnicities, the partner organizations continue to be uniquely positioned to serve New American communities in Middle Tennessee. The PEACE Program aimed to empower youth and adults to become leaders through community engagement that enhanced inclusivity, unity, and solidarity.
At the same time that the PEACE Program was taking root, the Youth Education Program worked to promote leadership and develop confidence in immigrant youth through program development. Due to overlapping goals between the two programs, PEACE and Youth Education have merged to create the Community Empowerment Program. By 2019, we aim to create community-led spaces for open dialogue, enhance access to resources, and foster resiliency across diverse communities in the greater Nashville area.
What are some misconceptions about Community Empowerment?
The general misconception is that the Community Empowerment Program may specifically target communities where it is believed youth are more “at risk” for radicalization and violent extremism. The Community Empowerment model does not target violent extremism in any particular group, instead critical to our mission is the need to breakdown negative stereotypes and to foster healthy dialogue across communities throughout the greater Nashville area.
What is Community Empowerment Doing?
Our relationship-rich model gives communities experiencing trauma, language, and cultural barriers access to needed social services. In today’s world, where we are more interconnected than ever, it is essential to value diversity to build resilient communities. American immigrants and refugees who feel marginalized, persecuted, or alone are less likely to succeed in creating a life with economic stability and independence. With this in mind, we created the Community Empowerment program to specifically address the cross-cultural challenges New Americans face when living in the United States.
Objectives of Community Empowerment
During the two year period, the initiative aims to serve more than 1,140 people through its various programs. The program focuses on the following three areas: Community Engagement, Resource Expansion, and Youth Engagement.
This initiative connects and empowers community leaders through resource trainings in civil mediation and mental health. We host community dialogues through organizational partnerships. We hold monthly forums to promote interactions among diverse communities in Nashville. Community members of all ages from Syria, Nigeria, Sudan, Egypt, Burma, Nepal, and other minority cultures are invited to connect with each other. The goal of this type of cultural immersion is to create relationships among minority communities and native Tennesseans.
This initiative is designed to identify resources and programs offered by organizations and institutions in the Greater Nashville area that could benefit the community if enhanced and expanded. The goal is accomplished by creating communication channels between groups to raise awareness and provide easier comprehensive access to community members. When a resource or program is identified, it is taken to community leaders to discuss the viability of its expansion. Through Resource Expansion, the Community Empowerment Program is hosting classes on sewing, driving, and entrepreneurship; developing mental health resources and programs for community members; and working with the Nashville Conflict Resolution Center (NCRC) to provide multilingual services for Rule 31 civil mediation. Because of the nature of the initiative, we are constantly expanding and adding programs.
The youth initiative includes leadership and mentorship activities that foster cultural exchange. Specific collaborations include: mentorship programs in partnership with local community groups and organizations; piloting the innovative youth and young adult mental health programs across relevant organizations; adapting Resiliency training to be culturally appropriate for Nashville communities; encouraging youth participation in community service projects in Nashville. Youth Engagement focuses on three programs: Cultural Exchange, the After-School Program, and the Summer Program.
With new refugees being resettled in or migrating to Davidson County, many schools find they have new students they are not fully prepared to support. In addition, many refugee children and families are not familiar with the education system in the U.S. and experience difficulty navigating their way through the system or understanding expectations of the school. The goal of the Culture Exchange Series (CE) is to provide school personnel in Davidson County with information they need to better serve and relate to their refugee students and families. We do this primarily by providing workshops that are tailored to the needs of the school. During these workshops, we contract with representatives from specific refugee communities to educate school personnel on their culture and refugee life.
The After-School Program targets elementary, middle, and high school students in Davidson County and provides programming to help these students improve their academic performance. Youth program staff work closely with school personnel to target student needs. The purpose of this program is to promote English language learning and academic skills for youth who have had limited or interrupted access to education. We provide a safe space for immigrant and refugee youth in an atmosphere where their individual abilities are recognized and celebrated. We strive to empower and develop confidence in immigrant youth who may feel caught between two worlds. Our program will empower youth to become leaders in their community, not because they are forced into greater responsibility at an early age, but because they want to advocate for themselves and others.
The Summer Program provides elementary and middle school students with tools to increase academic skills through social and problem-solving activities. Skills acquired within summer programming are essential to middle school development as it assists English Language Learners to become part of the overall population at an earlier age. Enrollments in the Summer Program afford students a year-round opportunity to receive English tutoring and academic assistance thereby improving the likelihood of high school graduation and college attendance.
Click here to access Navigating Mental Health: An Educational Resource Guide.
Haga clic aquí para descargar Navegando por la Salud Mental: Una Guía de Recursos Educativos.