An Akron agency is turning 100 and celebrating with a visit to the White House.
The International Institute of Akron will participate Wednesday in a national forum in Washington, D.C., that will bring together agencies across the country that serve immigrants.
The agency is one of 18 in the United States selected to participate in the idea-sharing forum and one of only two in Ohio. The other Ohio agency is from Columbus.
“We’re truly honored,” said Liz Walters, a spokeswoman for the International Institute of Akron. “It’s nice to see Akron stand apart as a place that is all-in for being a welcoming and inclusive place for immigrants to call home.”
The forum is among several new opportunities happening at the International Institute as the agency marks its centennial anniversary, which will officially be Nov. 24.
The other endeavors include:
• Leadership Summit: A group of about 30 government, civic and business leaders will meet Wednesday to discuss how Akron and Summit County can live up to their pledges to be “welcoming” to immigrants. The Akron City Council and Summit County Council passed resolutions last year to become a welcoming community, a step that has been taken in other areas of the country. They will look at what has been done elsewhere that could work in Akron.
• Economic development: The International Institute will use a $145,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to study economic development opportunities in the North Hill neighborhood involving both refugees and nonrefugees.
• Debate camp: The agency recently held a nine-day debate camp for 20 Akron middle school students, with a combination of English-speaking and non-English-speaking students.
“We’re hoping to do these kinds of programs moving forward,” said Ming-Hao Shiao, the institute’s director of education and employment services.
The forum in Washington, called the National Skills and Credential Institute, is part of the White House Task Force on New Americans’ commitment to addressing barriers immigrants and refugees face related to access to health care, information technology, engineering and education.
Akron’s forum participants will be: Para Jones, president of Stark State College; Michelle Collins, engagement and project manager of Conexus, Summit County’s workforce development project; Rick McIntosh, executive director of Project Learn of Summit County; and Shiao.
Shiao said the agencies have been working together to help assist refugees with education and employment opportunities.
“We would like to see what we can learn from the other participants there,” Shiao said.
Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan and Summit County Council President Ilene Shapiro will head up the Leadership Summit. Other participants include a Kent State University student, the owner of a Bhutanese grocery store and a local pastor.
Part of the participants’ task will be to discuss plans for a community-wide forum that is planned for this fall, likely in September.
Walters said the International Institute also will have an event to mark its actual anniversary in the fall with the focus on the people the agency serves.
“All of these things really highlight the ultimate goal we have as an agency to help the foreign born integrate themselves into society and build a life for themselves,” she said.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @swarsmithabj and on Facebook: www.facebook.com/swarsmith.