My name is Junia and I'm a first-year VISTA serving with Alternatives for Girls in Detroit. I am also a nonprofit professional from Brazil. When my husband was relocated to the U.S. for his job, I came to Michigan motivated to understand the social challenges of my new home.
Serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA member with Michigan Nonprofit Association has given me that experience. At Alternatives for Girls, a nonprofit organization located in Southwest Detroit which supports high-risk young girls through Prevention, Shelter, and Outreach, my service is centered through the Asset Building Program, which is part of the Prevention department. This initiative provides young ladies with resources to access post-secondary education; some of our girls will be the first generation of college students in their families.
Many of our clients are part of Southwest Detroit’s Latino community. As an immigrant to the U.S. myself, I frequently put myself in the position of the immigrant families we serve. Although I am privileged to have lots of support to live and work in the U.S., I find myself thinking about how I would handle parenting in these situations. How should parents feel when establishing their families in a new culture and having to face situations, like communication barriers or social exclusion, that may exist in this context?
Access to post-secondary education is featured in parents’ concerns of raising thier kids and the opportunities they would access to be successful in the future. Every day, I’ve seen parents struggling with the language barrier trying to express themselves and trying to get the information about services and benefits for their children. This barrier also limits their ability to participate in the children's school life and give them the support they need.
However depressing this may be, there is something in this scenario that gives me hope and makes my heart rejoice: I’ve seen promising and intelligent young people, full of pride in their families and in their country of origin. They can speak two languages brilliantly and carefully translate information that their parents need. Many of these young people already recognize their talent and the professionals who they will become soon. These youths are building the legacy of an America with more diversity!
I am grateful to being exposed to a scenario that brings me so much identification and personal growth. It’s a pleasure to be part of a program that supports people who are on the journey of establishing their families in a new country.