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Walsh initiative encourages immigrant civic engagement

Rominda deBarros

Mayor Martin Walsh announced last week the launching of the New Bostonians Fellowship Program, an initiative that will support immigration integration in the Boston community.

The program is part of a series of initiatives, including the New Bostonians Summit Initiative and English for New Bostonians Program, under the Mayor’s Office of New Bostonians. The mayor also announced the city’s participation in The Welcoming City Project and his support of An Act Relative to the Preparation of Certain Bilingual Ballots in the City of Boston, both of which are aimed at promoting civic engagement in immigrant communities.

“For the past five years the Office of New Bostonians has been thinking about how newcomers can become invested in the city socially, economically and politically,” said Alejandra St. Guillen, director of the Mayor’s Office of New Bostonians.

As a part of the new three-year initiative the Fellowship Program will select a staff member to aid in expanding and promoting successful welcoming and empowering initiatives within Boston’s residential communities.

The program is currently seeking fellows to oversee program objectives such as facilitating a vision-wide process for immigration integration, launching a city-wide media and public relations campaign and partnering with other nonprofits.

The Program overall will act as a welcoming entity by helping to develop an innovative action plan and generate awareness and support for the city’s efforts to empower immigrants to fully participate in the social, economic and civic life of the city, according to the Mayor’s Office.

The Fellowship will help research and implement successful immigration integration best practices, develop a campaign to help change the rhetoric about immigrants and increase engagement and partner with organizations to facilitate workshops that offer leadership training for achieving more active roles in decision-making bodies, according to the Mayor’s Office press release.

Similar to Mayor Walsh’s civic academies, the Fellowship program will also cultivate leaders within Boston communities and make local government more accessible to them. By connecting with other cities and sharing practices, such as the Welcoming American National Association, the city will have the opportunity to tap into expertise resources that will help in improving the program.

“We want immigration integration to be an inclusive process,” said Guillen. “By setting up leadership academies that target specific topics both newcomer and native populations will understand community process and provide the program with input since we are still in our developing stages.”

Established in 1988 by former Mayor Thomas Menino, the Mayor’s Office of New Bostonians was created to meet the needs of the growing and changing immigrant and newcomer communities in Boston.