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The Campanile

YMCA hosts Welcome Week


Celebrating immigrants, unity and Palo Alto history, YMCA’s second annual Palo Alto Welcome Week came to a festive end on Sept. 21 after 10 days of events hosted by several community organizations.

Joining the nationwide effort to recognize the contributions of immigrants and refugees to their respective communities, institutions such as the Palo Alto City Library, Palo Alto Museum, Kafenia Peace Collective and many more join hundreds of YMCAs and the nonprofit organization Welcoming America in this movement.

“We’ve been working with our group of community partners for several months in preparation for this year’s festivities,” Lily Stellmon, Welcome Week lead organizer, said. “It’s been a true collaboration. We hope to create spaces, tell stories and provide resources that make everyone in our community feel welcome and bring people together in unity.”

Welcome Week kicked off on Sept. 12 with a Moon Festival Cultural Diversity Celebration at Cubberley Community Center, and closed with a potluck and Storytelling Lounge on Sept. 21 at the Mitchell Park Community Center. In between, Welcome Week featured other events such as self-guided walking tours and family story times.

Another event highlighted in the Welcome Week were the English as a second language classes and discussions put on by the Palo Alto City Library. The ESL classes provide support and learning opportunities for immigrant families, according to Palo Alto City Library services manager Ruth Ann Garcia.

“Our partnership with the YMCA makes perfect sense for this week, or any time really, as libraries share the core values of youth development, healthy living and social responsibility,” Garcia said. “We’re pleased to be partnering with the YMCA and other groups to highlight our services and events that support new Americans.”

The guided walking tours connect places with people, past and present, according to Assistant Director of the Palo Alto History Museum Crystal Taylor. The tour exhibits the impact and accomplishments of immigrants in the city, including opening the first business, building the first high school and selling the land to Leland Stanford that would become Palo Alto.

“The role of a history museum is to record our past and to teach from it so we can inspire a better future,” Taylor said. “Immigrants have been shaping our community since they first started to arrive in the late 18th century; … the children and grandchildren of immigrants continue to shape this community.”

Junior Kylie Mies, who had the opportunity to check out the online Made Into America archives, presented by the MidPeninsula Community Center and the city library, said Welcome Week is a nice opportunity for our diverse community to come together.

“I think that the event is a great way to celebrate the unity in Palo Alto,” Mies said. “It’s so great for Palo Alto to have an event like this, especially in our political climate.”

As Welcome Week wrapped up, Garcia said she hopes the week left community members inspired to learn and do more for immigrants and newcomers.

“We want all newcomers to know that they are welcome in this country, in Palo Alto, and in our community organizations,” Garcia said. “I can’t imagine a public library not supporting new Americans, and I’m sure the YMCA and our other participating community partners feel the exact same way.”

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