“Welcome Home” New Americans Visit SD Capital

On Thursday, March 5th before the sun rose, 53 adult refugee and immigrant learners from the Center for New Americans got on a bus to take them to visit South Dakota’s capital.  For many years LSS has organized educational trips to the capital.

After their three-hour drive west and north to Pierre, the students’ first stop was the Soldiers and Sailors World War Memorial near the Capitol Building.

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Senator Deb Soholt, Representative Karen Soli and four additional South Dakota representatives met with the adult English learners over lunch.   Bill Molseed and John Anderson of the Department of Labor and Regulation, the sponsor of this English Literacy and Civics Field Trip, joined this lunch event, as did Betty Oldenkamp – President and CEO of Lutheran Social Services of South Dakota.  The representatives shared with the students about their work as representatives and what they do when the government is not in session.  Several of the representatives spoke about their work in farming, which most of the learners could relate to, having been farmers in their native countries. Hersh, a refugee from Iraq who was resettled to the United States six years ago, shared his respect for the democratic system.  “It’s good…everybody together.  The system is good.  They work for all refugees.”

Several students from LSS shared their stories and talked about the importance of English education and its continued funding.

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After lunch, the students quickly toured the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center.  This was a highlight for Emily, Assistant Education Coordinator at the Center for New Americans, who accompanied the students on their trip:

I enjoyed hearing the students make comparisons to South Dakota history and their country.  Students got a chance to see South Dakota life before cars, apartments, and grocery stores.  They were able to see mud houses, horses and buggies, cowboys, mining, and farming.  It was a great way to show our connectedness.

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From the Center, the students were taken to the Capitol Building to have their picture taken with Governor Dennis Daugaard.

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Students then toured the Capitol Building with Betty Oldenkamp.  During their tour the group received warm welcomes and introductions in both the Senate and the House, a special moment for Frank, a volunteer in our English program who also accompanied the students to Pierre.  “I think the highlight of the trip to Pierre was witnessing members of the House and again the members of the Senate stand and applaud the LSS students for their determination and commitment to be a part of this country.”  For Education Program Coordinator, Laura, it was the Lieutenant Governor’s address to the adult English learners that will be cherished most. After acknowledging that many South Dakotans are the descendants of immigrants and naming off the 14 countries represented by the group of students, he looked at the students and boldly said, “Welcome home!”

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This trip was funded by the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation, DLR.  LSS Center for New Americans would like to thank DLR on behalf of all the refugee and immigrant learners who have been privileged to embark on this educational trip to our state’s capital.

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