Global Cleveland is a proud member of Welcoming America, a nonprofit dedicated to helping local governments and nonprofit organizations build a welcoming infrastructure in more than 100 communities across the United States.

Pictured above, Ohio Fellows: Left Patricia Y. Hernández, Senior Attorney, Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc. and right Melissa Bertolo, Welcome Dayton Program Coordinator, City of Dayton Human Relations Council

In August, I was chosen as one of eight fellows for Welcoming America’s Spark Fellowship (1 of 3 chosen from the State of Ohio). The Spark Fellowship, to advance racial equity, is a two-year fellowship, funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. This intensive fellowship asks fellows to develop programming in our communities to raise awareness of disparities and to develop a strategy for change.

Although, the mission of GC is to attract, welcome, and connect international newcomers to social and economic opportunities, the Spark Fellowships asks that, while advancing immigrant inclusion, we help close the gap in racial equity. This is something that has always been central to our work at Global Cleveland. From the inception of our organization, it’s been clear that our role to create a welcoming place of opportunity for all individuals regardless of race, ethnicity, creed, or sexual orientation.

I am honored to have been selected to represent Global Cleveland and our Greater Cleveland region, in order to address equity, diversity, and inclusion in our welcoming work. The Welcoming Framework incorporates strategies that create more inclusive communities, engaging both immigrants and receiving communities. In the past, and moving forward our work will be across the following areas: leadership and communications, equitable access, economic opportunity and education, civic engagement, and safe and connected communities.

In April, I attended my first in person meeting with the 7 other Spark Fellows and staff members at Welcoming America. I look forward to reconnecting with my Fellows, next month at the National Immigrant Integration Conference, which will be held in December. These interactions help me learn and share best practices that are essential to engaging communities in ways that allow for greater understanding, particularly among people who may have concerns about or are unaware of the changing demographics of our community.

I am thankful to Welcoming America and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for the opportunity to dive deeper into both racial equity and immigrant integration work. I am even more grateful to work with a team of colleagues who are supportive and understanding of my desire to participate in this fellowship.

More information about the fellowship and my fellow fellows can be found here.


Written By: Jazmin Long