Somerville, MA. Recently, more than 50 community members, including elected officials of the city of Somerville, participated in a dialogue about the Welcoming MA campaign organized by Centro Presente’s Youth Program, Pintamos Nuestro Mundo, and The Welcome Project’s Youth Program. The youth members shared poems that they wrote about the experience of being an immigrant and the audience had the opportunity to participate in small discussion groups to learn more about the Welcoming MA campaign and give their input about how to create a welcoming environment for immigrants in Somerville.

For the past two months, the youth members of both organizations have been meeting to share their experiences as immigrants, and to discuss the ways in which young people can lead positive change in Somerville. As a result of these conversations, the youth members have decided in a democratic way to advocate for the Welcoming MA campaign, and to create dialogues that aim at shifting the negative perceptions or misunderstandings that our community holds about immigrant groups.

«I support the Welcoming Massachusetts campaign because as a Latino I can relate to this. I want my fellow Latinos to be respected and treated as human beings,» said Jair Morales a youth member from Centro Presente. «I support the Welcoming MA campaign because it gives us the opportunity to transform our community into one that is inclusive and that upholds our founding values,» said Wil Renderos Centro Presente’s Youth Leadership Program Coordinator.

«I support the Welcoming Massachusetts campaign because I am an immigrant and I can show my pride of being an immigrant by supporting this campaign,» said Sonia Machuca a youth member from the Welcome Project. Maria Landaverde the Youth Program Organizer at The Welcome Project said, «Working with the Welcoming Massachusetts campaign these last two months, these youth from immigrant families have shown that they have a voice and they want to be heard. They are eager to participate and be active members of the society,»

«Welcoming MA is a campaign to create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for immigrant families. We will continue having public dialogues and public action that will manifest the collective power and intention of Somerville residents in their desire to create a more welcoming and respecting environment for immigrants in the city,» said Patricia Montes, Centro Presente’s Executive Director.

«Hearing the thoughtful and heartflelt words of these young people, it is hard to imagine how anyone could hold anything less than admiration for their commitment and dedication to improving the community. Like the Welcoming Massachusetts campaign that they want the city to embrace, they are only asking that all people, regardless of when or how they arrived here, be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve as human beings,» said Warren Goldstein-Gelb, Director of The Welcome Project.

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