This past week I had the privilege to interview Amy Crownover, marketing and communications director for New American Pathways. Established in 2014, New American Pathways is a non-profit that provides a continuum of services to refugees upon arrival to the U.S. through their journey to citizenship. Every time I learn about the work done by Propel HR’s nonprofit clients, I am blown away by their dedication, passion, and commitment to service.
As soon as I walked through the doors of New American Pathways, a friendly receptionist with a thick accent greeted me warmly. When I hear a foreign accent, my mind races to try to identify where it may be from. I thought to myself, “She’s got to be from Africa! Maybe Kenya? Liberia? Oh, Rwanda? Definitely Rwanda.” Having spent a few weeks in Rwanda last summer on a mission trip, I spent a lot of time interacting with Rwandans. I asked about her heritage. Boom! Rwanda it was! This was my first human interaction with an employee of New American Pathways. She was a professional, vibrant, and welcoming greeter of an institution of which I would soon become enamored. Foreshadowing was at work - I needed to learn more about this fascinating organization.
As I waited for Ms. Crownover in the waiting area, I was intrigued by the diversity of the cultural photographs along the walls. Moreover, I was intrigued by the groupings of what appeared to be Muslim women sitting to the left of me carefully examining paperwork. They spoke in soft, yet emphatic tones. Again, I had to question myself, “Where are they from?” I wanted to know more, but a warm and welcoming salutation caught my ear, and Amy Crownover, my host, welcomed me with a firm handshake. She led me to the elevator, and we engaged in exchanging Happy New Year pleasantries.
The third-floor elevator door opened. Upon exiting, it was obvious this is where the nuts and bolts of the operation occur. Ms. Crownover led me down hallways packed with employees from the finance, programs, marketing, and development departments. We made our way to her corner office, and she shared with me the story of New American Pathways.
According to New American Pathways, a refugee is a person who flees his or her homeland because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on the basis of race, religion, political belief, ethnicity, or belonging to a certain social group.
I questioned Ms. Crownover about the current persecution of Syrians. “No doubt,” she said, “Syrians make up our current caseload of refugees. In fact, a host of newly resettled refugees are being processed downstairs.”
For the next hour, I learned the ins and outs of New American Pathways. After an intricate fourteen step process and an 18-24 month vetting and screening process, refugees are invited to the US, where upon achieving legal status, they become entitled to benefits, employment opportunities, and education while becoming productive and contributing members of their communities. At this time New American Pathways steps in and serves as the conduit for the refugees’ continuum journey and long-term success.
Here is the New American Pathway approach:
Safety and Stability: Consultants secure refugees with safe housing, basic needs, accessible medical care, and education.
Self-Sufficiency: Consultants assist in establishing refugees’ household budgets, obtain employment, ensure children are adjusting and that applications of green cards are being executed in a timely manner.
Setting up for Success: Consultants help refugees enroll in college or employment training programs, reunite with families, grow in careers and ensure children are excelling.
Last year, under the Obama Administration, the U.S. resettled 85,000 refugees. In 2017, the U.S. goal is to resettle 110,000. In 2016, New American Pathways welcomed and served more than 5,000 new Americans. These results are awesome! Also, ninety-three percent of the families are self-sufficient within 180 days of arrival. Of the 5,000 new Americans, 4,979 refugees are registered to vote.
Ms. Crownover shared one Syrian man’s story. He was a pathologist in Syria. Under great duress and persecution, he moved his family across Syrian borders into a dangerous prison camp in Jordan. With limited resources, shelter and food the doctor learned of a U.S. Resettlement Support Center in the local area. This institution provided initial screening, extensive interviewing and finally sent the referral to New American Pathways to move forward with the resettlement of this family. Today, the doctor, a pathologist, is supporting his family by working as a phlebotomist while fulfilling his medical credentials according to U.S. medical compliance laws.
New American Pathways director, Paedia Mixon, states it best, “New American Pathways is a place where we celebrate the remarkable contributions that refugees and other new Americans make in the community every day.” I learned so much from my trip to New American Pathways, and I am proud of the work they are investing to continue the American Dream. Personally, I hope that Americans embrace our diverse culture and community, welcome our new neighbors with inclusion, and invest time recognizing and acknowledging similarities rather than differences.