The English-Speaking Union Andrew Romay New Immigrant Center celebrated its inaugural year with a graduation ceremony for its first graduates on April 1, 2014. The event was generously hosted by the Open Society Foundations at their offices in New York City.
The Andrew Romay New Immigrant Center (ARNIC), named for the program's key instigator and supporter, is committed to improving the lives of recent immigrants by providing a welcoming environment, resources and information to help them improve their English, explore work and study opportunities, network, pursue citizenship, and acquire cultural fluency in order to participate fully in American society. Launched in January 2013, more than 200 new Americans have benefited from the ARNIC program.
Andrew Romay himself attended the ceremony and spoke of his experience as a new immigrant in the United States, recounting the difficulties he had finding information on how to navigate New York, access services and find information about colleges, housing, legal and financial assistance, and how to meet Americans and make friends. Sixty years later, Mr. Romay established the New Immigrant Center to help today's immigrants address these same challenges. Building on his vision, ARNIC provides a "home away from home" where new Americans can learn and socialize with Americans in a welcoming environment.
Renowned author Lara Vapnyar delivered the keynote address, speaking of her own experience moving to the U.S. from Russia and the challenges she faced learning English, adapting to her new country and forging a new career. Since 2002, she has published several books and short story collections in English, including Memoir of a Muse, There Are Jews in My House, Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love, and The Scent of Pine. Her stories have also appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times and Harper's Bazaar.
ARNIC 2014 Graduate Laura Gomez spoke on behalf of her fellow graduates, describing the challenges she faced arriving in the US – mastering American English, finding a professional job, overcoming her sense of isolation. Since joining ARNIC, Laura says "I now feel confident that I will find the professional job I am dreaming about… I know the same is true for many skilled immigrants of the ARNIC community who are eager to share their knowledge and experience, and contribute to the growth of the American economy." She continued, "I want to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Romay, the English-Speaking Union, volunteers, staff and friends of the Andrew Romay New Immigrant Center for their support throughout the past year."