The Harlem YMCA today announced that it is the winner of this year’s prestigious American Dreamer Award in the “Community Builder” category from the NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA). The American Dreamer Awards recognize individuals or organizations that are making a profound impact on the lives of immigrant New Yorkers. The Harlem Y, a cultural steward of Northern Manhattan since 1901, is being recognized for its innovative programs and services that serve the area’s diverse and growing immigrant populations. Harlem Y Executive Director Tiffeny Forrest and her staff will receive the award this morning during MOIA’s annual Immigrant Heritage Week breakfast at Gracie Mansion.
“We are honored to have been singled out by the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs for our work to help our newest neighbors make New York City their home,” said Ms. Forrest. “Here at the Y, strengthening communities is what we do best, and we look forward to meeting the unique needs of Harlem and its many immigrant communities through a rich array of programs and services.”
“We are committed to promoting the well-being of immigrants in our five boroughs and celebrating the rich cultural heritage of our City,” said Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Fatima Shama. “The Harlem YMCA has proven themselves to be true community builders by welcoming generations of immigrant New Yorkers and providing programs that help their newest neighbors feel at home.”
In response to increasing numbers of immigrants settling in West Harlem, Central Harlem, and Hamilton Heights, the Harlem Y established a New Americans Welcome Center (NAWC) in the area in 2008 – one of six such centers owned and operated by the Y across New York City. The NAWC is the brainchild of Jack Lund, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater New York. The center aims to support newcomers in achieving English literacy, cultural competence, and self-sufficiency as they complete the journey of making the U.S. their home. The Harlem branch has also offered English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes since 2007, and has expanded programming to serve 1,000 New Americans each year. The program now offers additional instruction in advanced English, citizenship preparation, computer literacy, and job readiness.
“The story of New York is a story of immigrants, and the American Dreamer Awards and Immigrant Heritage Week provide a wonderful opportunity to honor that history and celebrate our City’s rich and diverse cultural makeup,” said Jack Lund, President and CEO of the YMCA of Greater New York. “We applaud the Mayor’s Office for helping to raise awareness of and celebrate our New American neighbors throughout the week.”
Ms. Forrest has held the Executive Director position of the Harlem Y since 2007 and is the second woman ever to lead this historically important branch of the YMCA of Greater New York. Ms. Forrest’s responsibilities in this role include programming staff and board development, operations, and fund-raising, in addition to managing multiple government funds and an operating budget of $6.3 million. An historic cultural center, the Harlem Y over the generations has hosted and housed renowned American writers including Claude McKay, Langston Hughes, and Richard Wright; and numerous actors and playwrights have graced the Harlem Y’s stage including Paul Robeson, Ozzie Davis,, and .
The Harlem Y is located at 180 West 135th Street between Lenox and 7th Avenue. To learn more about this historic branch and its programs and services, visit http://www.ymcanyc.org/harlem.