The Mayor’s Office of New Americans (MONA), a new Metro Government office focused on engaging and empowering immigrants living in the Nashville community has been established, according to Mayor Karl Dean.
“Nashville is a vibrant community that is home to people from all over the world, and embracing our growing diversity only makes our city stronger,” Dean said. “The new Mayor’s Office of New Americans demonstrates that Metro Government is committed to making it easier for immigrants to adapt to living in our community and to be successful here in Nashville.”
Existing Mayor’s Office staff will lead the Office of New Americans, and the Mayor’s New Americans Advisory Council will serve as advisers. The office will focus on four primary objectives: engaging and empowering immigrants to participate in their local government and in their communities; fostering a knowledgeable, safe, and connected community; expanding economic and educational opportunities for New Americans to the benefit of all Nashvillians; and working with community organizations and other Metro departments to empower and support New Americans.
Next week, the Office of New Americans will host its first event, a lunchtime panel discussion to invite thoughtful discussion and community input on how to make the new office successful in engaging and supporting Nashville’s growing immigrant population. The event will be at noon on Thursday, Oct. 2 at the Sonny West Conference Center. It is free and open to the public.
Panelists will include Ralph Schulz, president of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce; Renata Soto, executive director of Conexion Americas; Stephanie Teatro, co-director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition; Mohamed-Shukri Hassan, member of the Mayor’s New Americans Advisory Council; and Shanna Hughey, director of the Mayor’s Office of New Americans.
“This new office is a great thing, not just for our city’s growing New American population, but for Nashvillians whose families have been here for generations,” said Hughey, who also serves as senior advisor in the Mayor’s Office. “When we engage and empower our newest residents, we make our city stronger as a whole.”
The number of foreign-born residents in Nashville has more than doubled over the past decade, and, in 2012, Nashville had the fastest-growing immigrant population of any American city. Today, 12% of Nashville’s population was born outside of the United States, and nearly half of those people are recent immigrants who entered the country since 2000.
One of the main focuses of the Office of New Americans will be the expansion of several successful programs already in place: Metro this year partnered with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to create Pathway for New Americans, a program that supports immigrants in Nashville who aspire to become U.S. citizens. Through this partnership, which is the third of its kind in the nation, New Americans Corners are located in five Nashville libraries and four community centers. They are stocked with resources to help would-be citizens prepare for the naturalization interview and test.
In 2009, Mayor Dean created the New Americans Advisory Council (MNAAC) to help foster a link between Nashville’s New Americans and Metro. Comprised of leaders from Nashville’s refugee and immigrant communities, MNAAC has opened up a two-way line of communication and collaboration between Metro government and its newest citizens.
With the help of the New Americans Advisory Council, Mayor Dean in 2012 launched a program called MyCity Academy. The first of its kind in the nation, MyCity empowers New Americans to understand and participate in Nashville’s government. Over the course of seven months, MyCity participants meet with leaders from Metro departments and tour Metro facilities. In doing so, they gain a better understanding of how their government works and learn how to resolve issues and obtain information.
Earlier this month, Dean joined with Metro Schools to announce a new Parent Ambassadors program and introduced 20 parents who will serve as ambassadors this school year. Ambassadors are paired with New American families new to Nashville schools who are from their same home country and/or speak their same language. As part of the free program, the ambassadors provide information and guidance on navigating the school system. They also serve as advisers to Metro Schools, assisting school leaders on policies and practices that ease the transition into schools for new families and their students.
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