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Cecilia Manrique: A welcoming Winona, a welcoming America

Cecilia Manrique: A welcoming Winona, a welcoming America

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Sheltering in place is nearing its sixth month.

What does one do in this unusual kind of situation where face-to-face social interaction has been hampered by a virus we have not experienced before?

Those who still have a job are working on it online. Those who are in education have been made to choose among in-person, hybrid or online teaching. Students at all levels from kindergarten to college have to cope with various teaching styles and methods.

Aside from taking care of my husband and babysitting grandchildren while their parents work and teach from home, I have managed to keep busy by being involved with two boards – the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Foundation Board and that of Project FINE.

Attending virtual committee and full board meetings every month, every two weeks and sometimes even every week has filled some of those days in lockdown.

It helps keep one informed about what is going on in the two communities – La Crosse and Winona.

Today’s Project FINE Language and Education Services Committee meeting, which focused on activities for Welcoming Week this week, brought to the forefront the community’s need to pay attention to those newcomers who lack the resources and language skills to survive during this pandemic.

These new immigrants may not have the computer and technical skills to allow them to work from home. They may not have the resources and know-how to help their children navigate their education online.

And this is where the existence of Project FINE is so valuable — especially when it comes to their interpretation services and education support to families in dire need of such services.

Now, we participate in the national effort called Welcoming America with the celebration of Citizenship Day in Winona on Thursday, Sept. 17. Appropriately enough it is on the same day in 1787 the U.S. Constitution was signed in order to forge a new nation that would guarantee the equality of its citizens.

As immigrants who have raised their children here and whose children are raising our grandkids in America, we can only commend the work of an organization like Project FINE which focuses on integrating newcomers through education and hope that a celebration on Constitution Day reminds us that a welcoming America recognizes that we are all created equal and should be treated as so.

Cecilia Manrique is a retired Political Science professor from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse who is privileged to serve on Project FINE’s Board.


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