Center for New North Carolinians

In the 1990s, thousands of immigrants and refugees arrived in the United States in search of better opportunities for their families, with many working in construction, factories or in the fields. One community took a unique approach in response to the increasing population. In 1997, the University of North Carolina Greensboro, or UNCG, launched a taskforce — Outreach to New North Carolinians. The taskforce believed newcomers should have “greater access to education, medical and social services, and job training.” The taskforce, with support of the university chancellor, made a request to the University of North Carolina Board of Governors to establish a center that would aim to address the needs of the community while serving as a resource for the state and other higher education institutions. In 2001, the Board of Governors approved the request and the UNCG Center for New North Carolinians, or CNNC, was born.

For the last 20 years, the CLINIC affiliate has promoted immigrant integration and access to services to immigrants and refugees in the state by “bridging newcomer populations with existing communities through direct service provision, research and training.” When the CNNC was first created, it oversaw three programs. This includes the AmeriCorps ACCESS Project, which provides opportunities for participants to support and help immigrant and refugee communities to receive quality access to social services and become financially self-sufficient. Part of the programs’ mission is to train immigrant and U.S.-born participants in cross cultural education. The second project is the Interpreter ACCESS Project, or IAP, which trains and contracts interpreters to assist newcomers in successfully accessing health and human services. Today, IAP contracts with the Guilford County School District as well as the Cone Health system to provide skilled interpreters. The last core project is the Immigrant Health ACCESS Project, IHAP,  which aims to overcome barriers that prevent immigrants and refugees from receiving adequate health care. The IHAP takes an integrated approach to health care and ensures that uninsured immigrants and refugees receive access to primary care in addition to behavioral and oral care.

While the CNNC utilizes its unique position within the university to leverage its strength and resources to promote immigrant integration in the community, it has made great efforts to establish strong partnerships with local nonprofits to assist in supporting newcomers. “The synergy between local nonprofits, the center and the university allows us to have a greater impact in the community,” said Betsy Jenson, Immigration Services Manager and Interim Co-Director at The Center for New North Carolinians. The center has since expanded and now has eight programs, including the three original projects. In 2014, the CNNC opened its immigration legal services program and currently holds Department of Justice recognition with two partially accredited staff. The center is also a current grantee of the Citizenship and Integration Grant given by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS.

Naturally, the program that consistently allows CNNC staff, volunteers, partners and community members to collaborate is through the three community centers that are conveniently housed in neighborhoods with large immigrant populations. The community centers provide various services, such as English as a second language classes, employment readiness, after-school tutoring, and health and safety classes to name a few. “The community centers serve as a hub and a place where members of the community can come together and connect with resources,” said Jenson.

The CNNC provides a great example of the different ways organizations and institutions can promote immigrant and refugee integration within their organizational structures. The CNNC takes pride in serving as a “model for how institutions of higher education all over the country can mobilize their resources and community partnerships to do the same.” In the future, staff at CNNC hope to provide training for universities and community organizations interested in providing similar services to promote access and integration for newcomers.

CLINIC applauds the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the Center for New North Carolinians for paving the way to promote immigrant integration through higher education institutions and beyond.

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