International Institute of Minnesota
Our neighbor to the northeast, at Como Ave. near Snelling, this nonprofit has been welcoming immigrants and refugees for nearly 100 years. Their centennial happens later in 2019 so how appropriate to honor them with a contribution to help keep our state a welcoming place – because it feels more important now than ever to let global transplants know they are valued in our community!
Founded in 1919 as a branch of the YWCA of St. Paul, the organization addressed the unmet needs of immigrant women and families of the era. The Institute continuously evolved with the demographic shifts of immigration to become a leader in serving the changing needs of New Americans. A few historical markers:
• The Institute offered the state's first English language classes – on the west side of St. Paul, serving mostly Mexican immigrants.
• During WWII, they helped emancipate Japanese-Americans from internment camps, and placed them in jobs as translators and codebreakers at Fort Snelling.
• After WWII, the Institute served “displaced people” to the U.S. as well as returning soldiers’ “war brides.”
• In 1974 after the Vietnam War, the Institute began settling displaced Lao, Hmong and Vietnamese. Hiring Minnesota’s first bi-lingual case manager, the staff today is reflective of the many refugee and immigrant communities they serve.
• Since 1974, they have resettled nearly 25,000 immigrants from almost every region in the world!
The Institute Today
Their mission is to “help New Americans achieve self-sufficiency and full membership in American life.” The organization supports this objective by providing linguistically and culturally accessible services that enable every immigrant and refugee to work toward achieving full community participation and self-sufficiency. Newcomers arrive with talent, potential and ambition, and the Institute's mission is realized when they thrive. Key programs include:
• Refugee Services: Providing a strong start to a new life.
• Workforce Development: Training the New American workforce.
• Education: Fostering academic skills for success.
• Immigration & Citizenship: Paving the pathway to citizenship.
As Minnesota's landscape expands to include more immigrants, our community benefits culturally and economically. New Americans work together with Institute volunteers and staff to create their future. From language learning to job training to citizenship classes, it offers a pathway for a strong start. Some examples:
• They have trained and placed 2,600 people in healthcare positions such as nursing assistants and nurses.
• Their College Readiness Academy is nationally recognized for increasing college graduation rates among immigrants.
• Since 2001, more than 12,000 New Americans have used the group's services to become U.S. citizens.
• In 2018 alone, the Institute served 3,721 New Americans from 104 countries through its overall programs and services.
Check Out These Upcoming Events
Afternoon Tea & Olga Zoltai Award Ceremony
Join the Institute at the fifth annual International Women’s Day Tea. Proceeds support programming for New American women & their families. March 3, 2019 • 3:00–5:00 pm • Renaissance Depot • 225 3rd Ave S • Minneapolis • More here.
Festival of Nations
Celebrate at the longest-running multicultural event in the Midwest – discover more about the world & cultural fluidity of our region! The Festival showcases a rich diversity – providing a stage for artists to share their heritage as nearly 100 ethnic groups come together through dancing, performances, exhibits, demonstrations & cuisine. May 2–5, 2019 • St. Paul RiverCentre • 175 W Kellogg Blvd • St. Paul • More here.
Festivities will start later this year when the Institute celebrates its 100th anniversary in December 2019. As details unfold about public events, check the bulletin board in the co-op lobby, visit the Institute's website or follow them on Facebook.
More about the Institute's services & resources – including volunteer opportunities – at their website. Find out how you can donate goods for New Americans; even get your next passport photo taken at their office.
Thanks to the International Institute of Minnesota for the photos & graphics, and Corinne Ertz for her contributions • Posted by Christine DeMars • February 2019