Civic Nebraska teamed with Lutheran Family Services on Sept. 7 to host nearly three dozen recent immigrants and refugees to the United States at New Americans Capitol Experience Day.
The event connects immigrants and refugees to their state’s government while providing them a space to share their stories.
Participants toured the Capitol, met with elected officials, learned more about American democracy and Nebraska’s unique form of state government, advocated for issues important to their communities, and discusses their individual experiences.
“For immigrants to feel empowered and engaged in their new home, they must have an understanding of and access to the institutions that affect their daily lives,” said Amanda Barker, Civic Nebraska’s deputy executive director and head of Civic Health Programs. “New Americans Capitol Experience Day brings them to their state’s governing systems and officials together in a positive, interactive environment.”
By familiarizing new Americans – some of whom may not have been exposed to democratic ideals in their country of origin – to state leaders and government, Capitol Experience Day creates connections and opportunities for civic engagement beyond the sessions at the Capitol. This event was held in conjunction with Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska’s Migrants and Refugee Leadership Academy, a two-day training Sept. 6 and 7 that offered immigrants and refugees the opportunity to connect, share experiences, and develop advocacy skills.
Civic Nebraska has hosted Capitol Experience Days, typically for middle- and high- school students around the state, since 2014. Those who take part in the hands-on sessions apply critical thinking and civil discourse and gain knowledge of the governing process. So far in 2018, nearly 320 students from more than 20 Nebraska schools have taken advantage of the program.
In June, Civic Nebraska expanded the program to include new Americans of all ages. The inaugural New Americans Capitol Experience Day was attended by about 20 adults and children recent immigrants from Iraq, Syria, and Vietnam, among other countries.