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Flushing Y opens new center to help immigrants

Newly arrived immigrants in Flushing, one of the city’s most diverse neighborhoods, have a new tool to help them assimilate into American society.

On Sept. 9, the Flushing YMCA opened its New Americans Welcome Center, a multipurpose facility that will provide the area’s newest residents with services to help them make the transition to life in New York City and to guide them as they begin their lives here.

By offering courses, counseling, workshops and more, the new location, which opened with a festive lunch attended by local luminaries and leaders, will ease these most vulnerable people into their new community.

“We will be providing classes new Americans need. We provide counseling services and referrals for people who come in with questions and concerns. If they come in and ask where to find a public assistant, we can refer them out,” said Kathy Liu, program coordinator for the center. “We also have workshops for new immigrants and we usually invite people from other organizations to give the workshops.”

The course offerings range from computer literacy and English as a Second Language classes to courses on United States civics to help prepare students for citizenship exams and job readiness training to teach attendees to create résumés, interview for positions and more.

Workshops will be selected based on the needs of the center’s visitors.

State Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing), who attended the event, said she was pleased that Flushing finally has a New Americans Center in its YMCA, at 138-46 Northern Blvd.

“I think it’s great. I was a volunteer with the YMCA for many years and I had seen it at other YMCAs and only wished they would bring one to Flushing,” she said. “It’s very important, especially in helping new immigrants learn English. It’s an important time for that. Because of the bad economy they’re looking for jobs, and boosting their English helps so much.”

Liu said the center will be creating workshops in coming weeks and updating them based on community needs and desires.

“We pick the workshops based on what people need,” said Liu. “So when school starts, for example, we’ll ask students what they need to live better and easier in this area.”

More than 200 people attended the event, including Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and City Councilmen Peter Koo (R-Flushing) and Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone). Students from other centers across the city attended the lunch as well, as did representatives of various area community organizations.

The new YMCA program follows in the tradition of the New Americans Program at Queens Library’s Flushing branch, which provides resources for new immigrants.

The YMCA of Greater New York hopes to open six of these centers by the end of the year.

Course registration will begin Thursday and go through to the end of the month. The first classes at the center will take place Oct. 4.

For more information about the center and its offerings, contact Liu at kliu@ymcanyc.org or 718-961-6880, Ext. 123.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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