For many Minnesotans, their only experience with the International Institute of Minnesota is through the Festival of Nations. Maybe some have seen their building near the State Fairgrounds or taken advantage of their passport photo services. That is only a very small sampling of the true impact and reach of the International Institute.
For thousands of New Americans from all over the globe, the Institute is a lifeline. The services they provide truly embody the concept of “Minnesota Nice” making sure that our new neighbors feel at home and have the opportunity to thrive.
The International Institute of Minnesota began 100 years ago as a part of the YWCA aiming to help New Americans. In their infancy, the Institute not only offered English classes, including the first English programs for Mexican immigrants, but also to celebrate the cultures their clients brought with them to America.
Their growth has largely been need-based; they see a gap in assistance programs, and they add or adapt their offerings to make sure that need is met. When they saw a need for nursing assistants but a lack of training, they added nursing assistant training classes. Later they saw that many new Americans were having trouble making the jump to college; in response they added a range of college readiness classes.
The Institute’s resettlement efforts began in response to World War One as well as (those from Japanese internment camps) Vietnamese refugees to find a new home in Minnesota. Traditionally, Minnesota is a very welcoming state to new Americans, with many jobs available and examples of other refugee groups, such as the Hmong, successfully settling and thriving.
The International Institute’s future revolves around navigating the ever-changing immigration landscape to expand their offerings. They continue to celebrate the vibrant cultures that New Americans share with Minnesota and encourage everyone to get involved by volunteering, donating, or even attending one of their presentations dispelling myths surrounding refugees. On top of that, supporting immigrant-owned businesses in your neighborhood ensures the success of not only new Americans, but the community as a whole.
You can learn more about the International Institute of Minnesota at their website: iimn.org/ or by attending their World Refugee Day Celebration at Blackstack Brewing on June 20th, 2018