New Hampshire community colleges and student groups lend expertise, outreach, and resources to grow diverse and strong communities

New Hampshire community colleges and student groups lend expertise, outreach, and resources to grow diverse and strong communities

October 25, 2017

New Hampshire community colleges and student groups lend expertise, outreach, and resources to grow diverse and strong communities

CCSNH campuses create opportunities for refugees, immigrants, non-English speakers and other newcomers to better understand each other

Nashua, NH – Across the Granite State, New Hampshire’s community colleges are involved in partnership initiatives designed to make immigrants and refugees feel welcome in their new neighborhoods. Linked by a common goal to introduce longtime residents to the diverse backgrounds of the state’s newest neighbors and strengthen the ties that build strong, educated, and diverse communities, Nashua Community College and the United Way of Greater Nashua are hallmark example of how business, industry, and academic groups can work together.

“Nashua schools, and schools across the state, are part of a statewide effort to welcome and create safe educational opportunities for newcomers from other countries,” said Liz Fitzgerald, director of community impact at Nashua United Way. “A diverse community of informed, healthy, and engaged people is more resilient and able to work together to address the challenges facing our state and region.”

The positive takeaways of those efforts were evident at the October 13 “Building Healthy Connections Together” Symposium run by the Gate City Immigrant Initiative, where new resident Andre Birenzi discussed fleeing war in Congo, resettling in Burundi, and finally arriving in Nashua in December 2016. Crediting help from community members, Birenzi said it took only 10 months from arriving as a refugee to landing a job as a software engineer at Bowdoin College.

“Being in a welcoming community is a good thing, because I got to know people,” Birenzi said, referring to Nashua’s status as an official Welcoming Community. “It is very important to get connected, to meet people, and to understand how things work in the U.S.”

For Nashua Community College Professor Elizabeth Berry, accounts like this illustrate the advantages of investing in diversity initiatives.

As the facilitator of the Conversation Partners program and the International Café at NCC, she leads the monthly gatherings where non-native English speakers and native speakers meet to enjoy multicultural refreshments, practice English skills, and make friends from other countries. International Café welcomes all members of the community, including non-students and high school students from Nashua and its surrounding towns.

“Our goal is to change the way many people view newcomers – refugees and immigrants – into our community and empower them to become partners within the community,” Berry said. “We’re all equal members of our society with important ideas and skills to contribute to the workforce and overall fabric of our increasingly-diverse state.”

As part of One Greater Nashua, Berry offers workshops focused on helping people better understand each other. As chair of NCC’s Department of Multicultural Engagement, which includes English for Speakers of other Languages (ESOL) and World Languages, Berry sees the far-reaching benefits and positive outcomes of nurturing multicultural connections for all involved.

Grant funding from the Endowment for Health and the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation enables organizations in and around Nashua, Laconia, Manchester, and Concord to make it easier for newcomers to become part of their new communities. It also emphasizes building connections between new residents, including those learning to speak the language, and people with roots in New Hampshire already.

Community colleges in and around New Hampshire’s other refugee resettlement areas have similar partnerships with local school districts and integration and inclusion initiatives. Resettlement areas are designated with special services to help newcomers acclimate to a new culture and language.

For more information about International Café and ESOL programs at NCC or to get involved with diversity and multicultural engagement efforts, contact Berry at (603) 578-6912, or


The Community College System of NH consists of seven colleges, offering associate degree and certificate programs, professional training, transfer pathways to four-year degrees, and dual-credit partnerships with NH high schools. The System’s colleges are Great Bay Community College in Portsmouth and Rochester; Lakes Region Community College in Laconia; Manchester Community College; Nashua Community College; NHTI – Concord’s Community College; River Valley Community College in Claremont, Lebanon and Keene; and White Mountains Community College in Berlin, Littleton and North Conway.  The seven community colleges in the system are committed to working with businesses throughout the state to train and retain employees to develop a robust workforce across all sectors and embraces the "65 by 25 Initiative," which calls for 65% of NH citizens to have some form of postsecondary education by 2025 to meet future workforce demands.