The City of Champaign is proud to announce it has been recognized as a Certified Welcoming place by Welcoming America, becoming the only municipality in Illinois to achieve this distinction. In 2022, Champaign participated in Welcoming America’s comprehensive evaluation process and is now one of 20 other municipalities in the United States who have earned the Certified Welcoming designation.
To celebrate this accomplishment the City of Champaign is hosting a celebration on November 7, 2023, from 6:00-6:45 pm at the Champaign City Building (102 N. Neil St., Champaign). The celebration will feature cultural performances and refreshments. The celebratory event is free and members of the public are encouraged to attend. Immediately following the celebration, a representative from Welcoming America will present the certification to the City during the City Council meeting.
Certified Welcoming is a formal designation by Welcoming America for cities and counties that have created policies and programs that reflect their values and commitment to immigrant inclusion and belonging. The program assesses local governments against the Welcoming Standard on their efforts to include and welcome immigrants in all areas of civic, social, and economic life in their communities. With a Certified Welcoming designation, communities celebrate their local inclusivity efforts, build a competitive advantage, and gain new opportunities to share their welcoming practices with others on a regional, national, and global stage.
Welcoming America’s assessment of Champaign’s welcoming efforts highlighted its strong and clear partnerships with community-based organizations, including the New American Welcome Center, which convene and share information about the immigrant communities. The Champaign County Economic Development Corporation was also noted for its commitment to ensuring immigrant-owned businesses have access to resources and tools to create, sustain, and grow their enterprises.
Mayor Deborah Frank Feinen said, “The Champaign community has a long history of welcoming immigrants with open arms and helping them to settle into our wonderfully diverse city. The City of Champaign embraces our newest residents and celebrates the different cultures and backgrounds that each brings to strengthen our community. I also want to recognize and thank all our residents and partner agencies who have helped make Champaign the incredibly diverse and welcoming community that so many of us choose to call home.”
Rachel Perić, Executive Director of Welcoming America said, “We are thrilled to recognize the City of Champaign in becoming a Certified Welcoming place, affirming its leadership in building policies and partnerships that enable all those making the city home — including people with immigrant and refugee backgrounds — to thrive and belong. As the first city in Illinois to receive the designation, and the 21st in the nation, we look forward to celebrating and supporting the community’s ongoing efforts to make the city a welcoming place for all. We especially want to recognize the New American Welcome Center for its longstanding involvement as a member of Welcoming America and playing a pivotal role in the city’s Certified Welcoming designation.”
New American Welcome Center Director Akua Forkuo-Sekyere added, “The Certified Welcoming is an amazing accomplishment and shows how intentional we all are in making our community truly welcoming and inclusive. This work is possible because of the countless hours that advocates, volunteers, supporters, partners, and advisors spend on services, community building, and implementation of the Welcoming Plan. Even though our community still has work to do, this is a time to celebrate and acknowledge the amazing and beautiful work we do to support immigrants in our community.”
In addition to being the first in Illinois to achieve the Certified Welcoming designation, Champaign is also the first to achieve it with a the 2-star designation under the new star system implemented by Welcoming America earlier this year. Far from being a “rating system,” the new Certified Welcoming star system creates a roadmap for communities to advance welcoming work with transparency and accountability.
About Welcoming America
Welcoming America is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that leads a movement of inclusive communities becoming more prosperous by ensuring everyone belongs. We believe that all people, including immigrants, are valued contributors and vital to the success of our communities and shared future. Learn more on their website – welcomingamerica.org.