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Fellow’s Corner: Final Reflections on Being an American Dream Fellow

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Jacob Perry
American Dream Fellow 2014 – 2015

How honored and privileged I feel to have been an American Dream Fellow with the Cisneros Center in its inaugural year of operation. This Fellowship afforded me the chance to work in my home region of Northwest Arkansas and contribute to efforts aimed at creating an environment that welcomes immigrants and assures they have the necessary supports to integrate into the broader community.

I am most proud of my involvement with EngageNWA, a coalition of 50+ Northwest Arkansas organizations – including corporate and non profit – that have come together to engage and empower the region’s diverse populations. The idea for EngageNWA was born when leaders from Walmart, the Jones Center, and the Northwest Arkansas Council began discussing the need to better connect with the diverse populations that have come to the region for jobs, education, and family connections. Our work with EngageNWA focuses specifically on the Immigrants From Abroad pillar for which we led the creation of a strategic plan. When EngageNWA leadership asked the Cisneros Center to spearhead the Immigrants from Abroad pillar in order to push forward the momentum of EngageNWA partners, I assumed the lead role for this task within the Cisneros Center. Though I received ample support from my team, I was intimidated by the prospect of leading regional corporate, non-profit, and academic leaders to create a strategy of collective action for coalition partners. I experienced a quick learning curve, and I soon felt fully comfortable and confident guiding a highly talented and committed group to create a plan to address the most poignant needs facing our immigrant communities. This process was messy at times and presented seemingly intractable challenges, but this is to be expected when highly diverse actors come together with the common purpose of improving their community.

I cannot recognize the progress of EngageNWA Immigrants from Abroad without lauding the dedication and passion of the members who make up this pillar. They are the ones serving the community on a daily basis, and it will be through supporting their work that EngageNWA is ultimately able to make Northwest Arkansas a better place for immigrants and natives alike.

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