American Dream Leaders Program Covered by KUAF

On Monday, October 5, 2015, the Ozarks at Large program of Northwest Arkansas’ NPR affiliate, KUAF/91.3 aired a story on our American Dream Leaders Program.

Listen to the Report Here.

A transcript of the recording is below:

The Cisneros Center in Springdale is offering opportunities to college students to become American dream Leaders. Ozarks at Large’s Jacqueline Froelich has this report.

JF: Zessna Garcia-Rios, an American Dream Fellow with the Cisneros Center for New Americans, is facilitating the American Dream Leaders project on the second floor of the JTL shop on Emma Street in downtown Springdale. She’s teaching fundamental skills on community engagement to a class of students.

The Cisneros Center, based in San Antonio, Texas, was established by Henry Cisneros, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development during the Clinton administration in the mid nineties. Zessna Garcia-Rios says American Dream Fellows and American Dream Leaders collaborate.

ZG: All together, we’re the American Dream Corps, so that’s the actual name of the two groups, and together we work for the American Dream Initiative.

JF: The American Dream Initiative targets New Gateway communities, like Springdale, that have experienced significant immigrant growth, assisting with infrastructure development for successful integration. This is the second year for the Springdale Cisneros Center Dream Leaders initiative which recruits youth leaders from Northwest Arkansas Community College, the University of Arkansas, local technical institutes, and eventually John Brown University in Siloam Springs.

ZG: The Center’s mission is to ensure that every American, whether native born or adopted by our nation, has the opportunity to achieve their American Dream.

JF: Recruited youth reflect the diverse demographic of Northwest Arkansas, which trends toward Hispanic, but Zessna Garcia-Rios says the Center will also reach out to Marshallese, Vietnamese, Hmong, and Laotian college students, and all participants will receive cultural competency training.

ZG: We’re talking to the students about, how do we reach out to diverse communities? And how do we make each other feel comfortable? And how do we reach out to people and talk to thmone on one and make them feel comfortable so we can understand what are their needs? That’s what we’re teaching them.

JF: The semester long college-credit course is rigorous, says Garcia-Rios.

ZG: Well, in order to become a participant in the American Dream Leaders program, you have to commit anywhere from 8 – 12 hours of your week. So that’s one of the big commitments that we do ask. In the form you have to submit an application, you have to write a small 250-word paragraph about you and your interest in the community, and above all just have a strong heart for the community and for helping out the new immigrant population that’s ben developing in Northwest Arkansas.

JF: Three women and two men are enrolled in this semester’s Dream Leaders seminar. One of them is Nezly Silva, a social work student at the University of Arkansas. She was born in the United States, but her family originates from Hidalgo, Mexico.

NS: I love working with my community, and I’m very committed. I ended up getting an email about it from an old professor of mine who said, Nezly, I think this would be a wonderful program for you, I’m here to support you if you need any letters of recommendation. And then I just — I went for it.

JF: Ariana Mesa is enrolled at NWACC pursuing a degree nearly childhood education.

AM: I hope to learn and be able to serve my community better and get to learn about different cultures and just the diversity that’s here in Northwest Arkansas.

JF: One pragmatic project, generated by last year’s students, was the creation of a local American Dream Guide. Cisneros Center AmericanDram Fellow Zessna Garcia-Rios says it’s a mobile, digital tool for local immigrant families to access critical services and resources.

ZG: With the help of Springdale East Lab students got together and created what is a GIS map. It’s a map that goes along all of nWA and pinpoints all of these different resources. So that’s become the major project for this years leaders. is to go back into the community. The last year our fellows reached 500 community members.

JF: A project goal is to train 750 immigrant community members on the American Dream Guide and develop a marketing campaign. Fellows are also designing a curriculum to develop skills for northwest Arkansas’ culturally diverse workforce. All of this, Zessna Garcia-Rios says, is part of a 10-point American Dream Roadmap to help immigrants feel more welcome.

ZG: And the 10 points from the RoadMap feed into what the American Dream Guide is.

JF: The Cisneros Center American Dream RoadMap, facilitated by the American Dream Corps, teaches that acquisition of language and civic knowledge, education, financial capability, physical well-being, and community engagement, leads to successful community integration and empowerment.

For Ozarks at Large, I’m Jacqueline Froelich.

Learn more about the American Dream Leaders program.

Learn more about the American Dream Initiative.

Cisneros Center for New Americans


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