New Americans Welcome Center

Prospect Park New Americans Welcome Center

As of the 2010 census, more than 37 percent of city’s residents are foreign-born and 43 percent of the city’s workforce are immigrants. Nearly 85 percent of the total immigrant population in New York speak a language other than English. Within this group, 19 percent do not speak English well, and about 10 percent do not speak English at all. Most of these immigrants live in population clusters that are underserved by informational, education, recreational, vocational, advocacy, and human services that the New York City’s YMCA is in a position to provide directly as well as in collaboration with other human service and immigrant service agencies.

The YMCA is committed to serving the immigrant population of the city and, in response to their needs, has opened New Americans Welcome Centers to help immigrants achieve literacy, cultural competence and self-sufficiency. The goal of the YMCA is to be recognized by every New American as a “safe haven” that provides multilingual information, resources and referrals and a wide range of services (instructional, vocational, recreational, and family support) that will help them attain their goals.

The New Americans Welcome Centers serve as multilingual information resource and referral centers and provide immigrant families with a wide array of instructional, vocational, recreational, family support, and social services. Instructional services include English as a Second Language, Cultural Orientation, Citizenship Preparation, Job Readiness, and Computer Literacy. In addition, some of our Centers offer Adult Literacy and GED preparation classes, as well as Substance Abuse and Alcohol Prevention Counseling.


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by Shawna Kent, ESL Instructor

As winter’s cold weather and glittering lights descend upon us, the New Americans Welcome Center ushers in the holiday season reaffirming its commitment to each and every person who comes through its doors.  The holiday spirit inspires us to think about who we are as part of the human family. And in the spirit of the season, and the purpose of the Y, the NAWC continues to be a place of opportunity, of refuge and community; always—and especially now, when it is particularly needed.  It’s a time to gather, celebrate, and renew.

Community often means people in the same local neighborhoods who have particular things in common. The YMCA is that and more. It is  also a global community--recognizing that our larger neighborhood is our ‘world family.’  The feeling of fellowship is extended beyond the boundaries of place, culture and language, and we are all enriched by the diversity and the commonality we discover. In English, citizenship, and computer literacy studies, there is an atmosphere in which bridges are built, and walls are torn down.  Individuals whose countries might be at war are here together in peace. Whenever one person extends a hand across a table--or an ocean—a treaty is made.

Students gather and learn in a place where not everyone speaks their language—literally—and some have customs that are unfamiliar. We are all sometimes uncomfortable confronting things or people we don’t understand. With familiarity we realize that, at heart, we are all the same.  Strangers become friends. It turns out that our similarities are much more profound than our differences.  And in time, we come to appreciate that we are fortunate to be a part of this world village we call our home. It is  within the best of ourselves that we truly embrace others outside our own close-knit circle.  At NAWC our circle is expanded. Our language is the language of humankind and it is universal.

At the YMCA, giving and serving are at the core of every program.  Those who come to the NAWC to improve themselves become ambassadors of good will, able to go out into the world with their gifts. They are armed with meaningful connections, and new understandings; not only about English, or American history, but about the diverse peoples that make our city and our country unique.

As we enter into this joyous holiday season we wish for peace and light. As we reflect on the past and make our resolutions for the coming year, we have infinite hope. The NAWC students remind us daily, in everything they accomplish and work for, that mutual understanding is a state of grace. Let us all rejoice in them and celebrate!