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The Gift of Travel to the National Immigrant Integration Conference




 We Attended the National Immigrant Integration Conference Thanks to the Gift of Travel from Southwest Airlines!


The NYIC's Kim Sykes discusses our work alongside education advocates from California
and Illinois.

On December 11, I traveled with my colleague Kim Sykes (the NYIC’s Senior Manager of Education Advocacy) to Nashville, Tennessee to meet with other education advocates from around the country as part of an exciting, newly-established partnership led by the Migration Policy Institute – the National Partnership to Improve PreK-12 Success for Immigrant Children and Youth. The partnership aims to promote the inclusion of immigrant and English Learner needs in state education plans for the implementation of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) – which is a law that poses new challenges and opportunities for the states. The convening of the partnership was held ahead of the National Immigrant Integration Conference (NIIC), which drew 1,400 attendees to Nashville to strategize around best practices for immigrant integration. We were eager to have the opportunity to meet with a smaller group of advocates working specifically on immigrant education.

We discussed the NYIC’s efforts to shape ESSA implementation in New York, working with the Migration Policy Institute and other organizations to uplift the importance of Immigrant Family Engagement and adequate support for English Language Learners. Kim and I saw that each state is in a different place with its advocacy, and that many look to New York as an example and a leader in this type of work.

But we also learned that despite coming from all corners of the country, key challenges and themes emerge. For example, advocates discussed the need to acknowledge the social, linguistic, and cultural assets that immigrant students and parents bring to their schools and communities. It’s easy, even for advocates, to fall into using deficit-language and negative frameworks since these can be effective attention-grabbers – yet in focusing only on the things they don’t have, we build on a narrative that says immigrants are a burden. This was especially important to discuss now, in a time of increased anti-immigrant rhetoric and when we’ll be fighting harder than ever to protect immigrants’ educational rights.

Together, we also strategized about the best ways to include the voices and experiences of immigrant parents in major educational policies and decisions that affect their students, as well as how best to move beyond merely protecting immigrant rights, and to focus on improving integration efforts as well. The convening was a wonderful way to kick start a weekend of discussion and learning about integration, and allowed us to explore new ideas and share lessons with other thought leaders and experts seeking to improve the educational and life opportunities of immigrants like we do.

Our experience would not have been possible without Southwest Airlines, whose gift of travel allowed us – and several other NYIC staff! – to attend this national conference about a topic so central to our mission. We were so glad that as former co-hosts of the National Immigrant Integration Conference, we were able to still play a role in this highly impactful event. Thank you, Southwest!

NYIC Staff at the 2016 National Immigrant Integration Conference in Nashville, TN.



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