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For Immediate Release:
September 16, 2013
Contact: 518-486-9846
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 Local Conversations Allow New Yorkers to Reflect on Their Shared Immigrant History and
Begin a Dialogue about What it Means to be a New American in the Empire State

 New York, NY – The New York State Office for New Americans and the New York Council for the Humanities today launch a series of community conversations to facilitate dialogue with New Yorkers about our shared history as immigrants and descendents of immigrants, and to discuss the ways that immigration continues to shape the experience of being an American today.  These Community Conversations on Immigration are presented in partnership with New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, Interfaith Center of New York and Welcoming America.

“While our representatives in Congress discuss the value of immigrants in Washington, it is important that we have similar conversations in town halls and living rooms across this State,” said New York Secretary of State Cesar A. Perales, who oversees the New York State Office for New Americans, for Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. “What better way to celebrate National Welcoming Week than to join our neighbors to talk about our shared immigrant heritage.”

National Welcoming Week, taking place September 15th through the 22nd, is a nationwide event that will highlight the contributions of immigrants to American communities.

"Immigration is such a needed conversation in our state and nation, and the humanities provide powerful tools to tackle that conversation; it's a natural topic for us," said Sara Ogger, the Council's Executive Director.  "When each of these discussion groups gathers to talk about our shared experiences as a nation of immigrants, the participants gain new understanding and forge real bonds, even across perceived differences."

The initial series of Conversations is being launched during National Welcoming Week and will run through early December.  Additional events will be hosted throughout 2014. Each Community Conversation event is hosted by a community-based not-for-profit partner using a toolkit containing a short text for discussion and sample questions. A trained facilitator leads each dialogue. These events are estimated to last between an hour and an hour and a half. Participants complete a final evaluation to help gauge this programs effectiveness.

A listing of Community Conversation events schedule for National Welcoming Week is listed below. For a list of scheduled Community Conversations throughout the State, go to: or

Upcoming events include:

Toolkits and events have been developed for three distinct audiences: kids in upper elementary and middle school students; young adults in middle school, high school or college students; and, adults. Eligible tax-exempt organizations in New York State receives a $200 stipend for hosting a Community Conversation, which may be put towards food, transportation, space and other event hosting costs. Groups interested in hosting a Community Conversation in their community can apply at:

 This partnership with the New York Council for the Humanities is part of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo effort to assist newcomers to New York State who are eager to contribute to our economy and become part of the family of New York State. Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 23 requiring state agencies that provide direct public services to offer free interpretation and translation services to members of the public for vital forms and instructions. Governor Cuomo also created the New York State Office for New Americans, which has established 27 Opportunity Centers throughout the State to help immigrants learn English, become naturalized U.S. citizens and start and grow businesses. He also issued Executive Order 8 expanding the State’s minority and woman-owned business enterprise contracting goal to 20 percent, as well as created a surety bonding and education program to increase opportunities for these companies to compete for state contracts.

The mission of the New York Council for the Humanities is to help all New Yorkers become thoughtful participants in our communities by promoting critical inquiry, cultural understanding, and civic engagement. Founded in 1975, the New York Council for the Humanities is the sole statewide proponent of public access to the humanities. The Council is a not-for-profit organization that receives federal, state, and private funding.

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