Raising Up Our Newest Community Members with Tools That Build Bridges

Smiling woman in a hat with colorful outfit​Felicidade Oliveira moved to Amherst in 2009 from Cape Verde, an island off the coast of West Africa. She spoke not a word of English and didn’t know how to read in her native language, Creole. At 63, she came to the Center for New Americans in Northampton and has spent the past four years learning to speak English. She also learned how to read and write; she has penned poems and read passages of books out loud at public events. The language skills she developed led to her first job as a personal care assistant. 

“She’s a spectacular human being,” says Pesha Black, who coordinates the Center’s English for Speakers of Other Languages program. “What she has absorbed astounds me, and she has been enthusiastic about it the whole time. I would attribute it to her shining personality and perseverance.”

A solid support system for local immigrants and refugees, the Center for New Americans  creates long-term opportunity and stability throughout our community, both by meeting individuals’ most fundamental needs, and ensuring they have the skills, resources, and support to achieve lasting security. “We are proud to help immigrants and refugees integrate into the community, and learning English is a big piece of that,” says Russell Bradbury-Carlin, the Center’s Executive Director. “You can’t figure out anything if you can’t speak the language.”

Families know the meaning of security, thanks to the Center; it helps communities flourish with more fully skilled and engaged members. In addition to offering the English classes that Felicidade took, the Center also helps clients find housing, health insurance, and job opportunities, and it offers a bridge to community college and career advice, through what is aptly named the Bridges program. Bradbury-Carlin says, “When clients access the Center and learn English and get education and a job, they can start to see the rungs on the ladder for progress and stability.

The Center for New Americans is a community-based, non-profit adult education center that provides the under-served immigrant, refugee, and migrant communities of Massachusetts' Pioneer Valley with education and resources to learn English, become involved community members and obtain tools necessary to maintain economic independence and stability.

To donate to the Center for New Americans, follow the link provided and click on Add to My Donation Basket, or use the code 476488 on your paper pledge form.