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I met M’munga Ramadhani soon after his arrival to the City of Bowling Green in 2012.  A young father in his early 30’s, M’munga had already experienced more in life than most people do in a lifetime.  His eagerness to be involved and to learn compelled me to ask him to join the newly formed International Communities Advisory Council.   Soon after, I learned more about his life. He was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he and his family were displaced because of Civil War and unrest.  In 2000 he finally made it to a refugee Camp in Tanzania where he lived for 10 years before being resettled as a refugee in the United States.

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Today M’munga and his wife along with his 7 children have built a new life in Bowling Green, KY far away from the dangers of war.  Both parents work at nearby factories and recently purchased their first home in Bowling Green and soon plan to pursue U.S. Citizenship.  M’munga is who we call a New American.

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Capitalizing on the skills and leadership capacities of individuals like M’munga, the City recently launched the inaugural Academy for New Americans.  The first ever initiative of its kind in the State of Kentucky, the Academy  is a free leadership-training program that empowers New Americans to understand and participate in City Government. The purpose of the program is to provide New Americans the tools necessary to successfully navigate City services, community information and resources in order to become key stakeholders in assisting their respective ethnic communities and neighborhoods.

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The Academy for New Americans welcomed 17 participants who collectively represent 8 different countries and speak 12 different languages.  The largest participant group comes from Burma, with representatives also from Chile, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Peru and Rwanda.  Participants were selected through an application process on a first-come, first-serve basis.  To meet and learn more about the participants of the 2016 class follow this link: http://www.bgky.org/new-americans/2016

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Through the Academy for New Americans, participants will:

  1. Gain an in-depth understanding of City government services. Government services vary greatly from country to country; often times they may be non-existent or unreliable.
  2. Have greater accessibility to existing City and community resources. Language barriers, lack of knowledge, and lack of access are some of the obstacles that New Americans encounter in accessing services. The Academy for New Americans will help bridge the gap in accessing existing resources.
  3. Build leadership capacity. Leadership is viewed and interpreted in many different ways across the world. The Academy for New Americans will offer culturally appropriate pedagogy in leadership skills for the successful integration into American culture.
  4. Become part of the larger community network. Participants will connect to existing network in the community, broadening their opportunities to actively participate in leadership roles.

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The Academy for New Americans consists of day-long sessions meeting the third Thursday of every month, culminating with a graduation at the end of June.  Sessions focus on the following topics, in no particular order: City Government Services, Public Safety and the Courts, Citizenship and Civic Engagement, Leadership Development, and Volunteerism and Community Engagement.

If you are interested in learning more about the Academy for New Americans please contact Leyda Becker at (270)393-3766 or email me at leyda.becker@bgky.org

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