The first session of the 2nd annual Academy for New Americans launches this Thursday, February 23. This year’s class features 27 participants from 13 different countries: Argentina, Burkina-Faso, Burma, Burundi, Costa Rica, Cuba, Guatemala, Iraq, Kenya, Japan, Mexico, Rwanda, and Ukraine. And get this – combined they speak 18 different languages!
This year’s participants are geared up for an exceptional time! The Academy for New Americans combines much of the same structure of a conventional Citizen’s Academy which takes an inside look at City Government services, but adds a leadership and civic engagement component. The City has also partnered with Warren Co. Government to feature a session solely devoted to public safety and the courts.
The success of the City’s Academy for New American has created a ripple effect statewide. At the end of June, 2016 the City of Bowling Green entered into an agreement with Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government through its Department of Economic Development to use Bowling Green’s Academy for New Americans Curriculum.
But the greatest successes are seen right here in our own community! Take for instance 2016 Academy graduate Ghung Om, who left his native country of Burma at 17 years of age with only two pairs of pants and two shirts. Leaving his Father, Mother and twelve younger siblings behind, he arrived in Buffalo, NY June 15, 2011 through the Refugee Resettlement Program. He visited Bowling Green, KY in 2014 and having had difficulty securing employment in Buffalo, was enticed to stay in the City after a friend promised he could find a job immediately. He applied and landed a job the next day in Portland, TN working at a distribution center for Kroger, Inc. After working a year and commuting to Portland, TN, Ghung Om sought assistance from the Refugee Employment Program at Community Action of Southern Kentucky and was successful at securing a full-time job at Magna International in Bowling Green, KY.
Ghung Om learned about the launch of the City-sponsored Academy for New Americans through the City’s International Communities Advisory Council and was encouraged to apply. Ghung Om became one of seventeen participants who made up the inaugural class of the Academy for New Americans, which met monthly from February 2016 until June 2016.
Since his graduation from the Academy, Ghung Om has been able to advance within his company, he now works as a welder making $17.61 an hour. He has invested back into the community, in the last year he has purchased a vehicle and in November 2016 received the keys to his first home in Bowling Green.
On January 5, 2017 Ghung Om took the ultimately step of allegiance, he became a newly naturalized US Citizen. He continues to be engaged and connected to the City’s International Communities Liaison office through Academy Alumni reunions and other City services. He dreams of one day being a business owner and providing job opportunities for others. When asked what his plans for the future look like, he says he wants to make Bowling Green, KY his forever home.
Ghung Om is one of many success stories we can share about our Academy for New Americans! We are thrilled of what’s in store for our 2017 class. For more information about the Academy for New Americans watch our Spotlight on Bowling Green video here or visit our website at http://www.bgky.org/new-americans