HOUSTON (February 10, 2014) – On Friday, January 31st Sewa International AmeriCorps VISTAs helped plan, coordinate and facilitate a College Career Day for immigrant and refugee ninth graders at the Alief Independent School District Language Institute for Newcomers (LINC) program at the Hastings Annex. Sewa partnered with the AISD LINC program to make this event possible.
Eight speakers from the community came out to speak to over 150 LINC students who have been in the United States for less than two years and speak a collective seventeen different languages. Speakers, from various ethnic and professional backgrounds, spoke to students about staying in school, working hard, going to college, and doing well in society.
Speakers encouraged students to start actively thinking about their future goals and provided support for students to achieve the steps to reach these goals. This diverse group of bilingual speakers opened student minds to future professional and academic options. Many speakers explained their own personal and professional paths and the struggles they encountered, sharing stories that many students related to.
Some of the community members joining Sewa International as speakers at this event were: Kiran Bhatia, retired psychologist and Sewa Houston board member; Lizzette Diaz, Sales and Marketing Manager at Penta Communications; Waleed Elostaz, General Manager at Gillman Subaru SW; Cesar Espinosa, Executive Director of FIEL Houston; and Roland Gramajo, Guatemalan Community Organizer.
Elostaz, a previous graduate from Alief stated “As a refugee myself I am very thankful for a program like LINC and am looking forward to working with this program in the future.” Abrego, a recent graduate from Alief, said “It is a blessing from God to be helping all of these students and I feel blessed! I want all these students to achieve their dreams and to be good examples for others, examples of success!”
Espinosa commented “It is important for young people to see role models that they can relate to out in the community. That way they too can see that there are many things they can achieve.”
This event, the first of its kind for Sewa to offer, was considered successful by the speakers, LINC staff, and Sewa VISTAs. Sewa International plans to hold similar events in the future to further serve this community of immigrant and refugee high school students. Sewa engages the Alief LINC students weekly through afterschool tutorials. To get involved with Sewa and programs impacting Alief LINC students please contact [email protected].
‘Sewa College Career Day’:Back row L-R: Cindy Cantor (LINC paraprofessional), Teresa Corbett (LINC teacher), Waleed Elostaz (event speaker), Thuylieu Aligo (event speaker), Lizzette Diaz (event speaker), Roland Gramajo (event speaker), Aneel Bhimani (AmeriCorps VISTA). Second row L-R: Alexis Angelo (AmeriCorps VISTA), Cesar Espinosa (event speaker), Karen Abrego (event speaker), Kiran Bhatia (event speaker and Sewa AmeriCorps Supervisor). Front row L-R: Laura Frye (AmeriCorps VISTA), Li Shi (LINC Program Manager).