New American Cities | LIRS
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New American Cities is an innovative new program from Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service that transforms the lives of refugees, immigrants, and the cities they call home

The New American Cities program promotes economic empowerment, social mobility, and diverse, inclusive communities through a three-prong system: pathway building, career navigation, and harnessing the power of champions and coalitions. We are so grateful to our founding sponsors, Walmart and the ICONIQ Capital Network, for their support.

The Opportunity to Thrive

New American Cities is a response to a fundamental problem in the refugee resettlement system. Under the traditional system, refugees are required to accept the first job they are offered—often a low-wage, entry-level position. They work long hours and overtime just to make ends meet, leaving little opportunity to save money, much less time to dream or plan for the future. Often, they are not sufficiently equipped to anticipate and navigate the systemic challenges to long-term economic and social inclusion that they will encounter in their new communities. 

At LIRS, we believe that this is simply not enough—and that immigrants and refugees have an inherent right not to simply survive, but to thrive. New American Cities goes beyond the basics to create a robust, community-wide effort to integrate refugees into American society.

How It Works

The New American Cities program includes…

  • individualized career navigation services for refugees;

  • connections to pathway builders who forge relationships between refugees and employers, expose training opportunities, and aim to address systemic barriers to advancement; and

  • a network of coalitions and champions who will challenge negative narratives about refugees and create opportunities for social connections at the workplace, in the neighborhood, and beyond. 
New American Cities Model graphic. Pathway Builders, Career Navigators and Champions & Coalitions all have arrows toward a central graphic of a city labeled "New American Cities

New American Cities builds upon LIRS’ New American Pathways (NAP) program, which was piloted in 2019. NAP was also supported by Walmart and provided career upskilling and advancement to refugees and other immigrants around the country, allowing them to move from starter jobs into meaningful careers. 

  • Wages increased from just under $9/hour to an average of $14/hour–an average annual salary increase of $10,000/year
  • 81% of clients who were placed in jobs were placed in their career pathway; and
  • 84% of clients who were placed in jobs were placed in an upgraded job. 
New American Cities impact on individuals, households and communities/economy in a three column chart: Access to training and educational programs Upgraded job Improved job quality Improved wages and well-being; Increased income Economic stability and mobility Heightened ability to plan long-term; Observed increase in tax revenue and spending Filled labor gaps Charted career pathways for future generations

Norma's Story

Julienne's Story

 When Julienne N., a former refugee from Rwanda, began the program, she had a job as a caregiver in a nursing home making about $8/hour. After working with a career navigation specialist through New American Pathways, she was able to secure a career as a Community Support Worker for pregnant women and new mothers, many of whom are former refugees themselves. Julienne now makes nearly $20/hour and, equally as important, feels a sense of fulfillment in her work. 

“I started working with Carla, the program manager, and she helped me with the application. I was hesitating because of the language and because my bachelor’s degree was from Africa, but she helped me prepare, and that’s how I got this job. I’m so thankful to LIRS,” she said. “Now, I love my job because I’m helping moms with babies. When I came [to the U.S.], I had four children and it was so hard. Now, I get to help them be a mother and do what I know.”

Join Us!

LIRS welcomes new partners who are ready to transform and rebuild with New American Cities:

  • Employers who will hire and create career advancement opportunities for refugee participants.
  • Local Governments who would like to advance refugee integration initiatives and learn how to allocate workforce development budgets to support refugee career pathways.
  • Individuals who can contribute to meaningful change financially or serve as career mentors.
  • Foundations who are seeking opportunities with a proven return on investment.

If you are an immigrant or former refugee in the Baltimore, MD area who is interested in New American Cities services, please fill out this form.

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