Refugees given new learning opportunities in FM area

On June 9, adult and elderly refugees in Fargo-Moorhead will be offered an informal, conversational English program that caters to their specific needs, made possible by Concordia student Mackenzie Lindquist.

Lindquist, a junior at Concordia, has tasked herself with this project after being awarded the Phillips Scholarship in her sophomore year. This prestigious scholarship selects six students from sixteen private colleges in Minnesota who have a desire to provide service to their community.

Refugees, or “New Americans,” are those who have arrived to the United States from all around the world and are residents with refugee status, or Temporary Protected Status, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Lindquist was first exposed to this large population within the Fargo-Moorhead community when she mentored a New American family as a service-learning portion of her English course with Dr. William Snyder.

“Fargo-Moorhead is a big spot for refugees to come,” Lindquist said, mostly because of the booming job market.

Snyder, an English professor at Concordia, had his Global Literature students mentor New American families as a component of the course because of their large presence in Fargo-Moorhead and because of the experience.

“What they learn about themselves and [about] refugees is important,” Snyder said.

There are an abundance of opportunities for New Americans to integrate into the Fargo-Moorhead community. Lutheran Social Services aides in the settlement of refugees and
counsels them as they make Fargo-Moorhead their new home. The Adult Basic Education center in Moorhead offers English Language Learners (ELL) classes.

Despite these opportunities, Lindquist saw a gap in the assistance between young and old New Americans and the type of help they need. She noticed that elderly New Americans were not able to attend ELL classes. Difficulty with accessing transportation forced the elderly New Americans to stay in their homes rather than meet new people. Lindquist said that those who have recently moved to Fargo-Moorhead from a different place in the United States, perhaps in search of employment, have “secondary refugee status,” which forces them to give up their refugee benefits. Due to language barriers, adult refugees with children also have trouble communicating with their child’s teachers which inhibits the parents from being as involved as possible. Lindquist decided to help the elderly New Americans to integrate into Fargo-Moorhead with her program, “A New ERA: English for Refugee Adults.”

A New ERA’s vision is to provide an informal, conversational English-speaking group for adult refugees. Lindquist’s hope is, “to get people who don’t already go to an English program,” and provide them a space to practice their English skills while interacting with others. To combat the issue of transportation, Lindquist plans to hold weekly meetings at four rotating locations that are close by bus and are near the participating New Americans’ neighborhoods.

A large emphasis of A New ERA’s program is to help the elderly New Americans to get out of their homes.
“I would like to show them what a potluck is,” Lindquist said, hoping to give the adults a taste of Minnesotan culture.

The weekly sessions, beginning this summer, will each have a different theme. Both participants and volunteers are vital to A New ERA’s success, and Lindquist encourages anybody interested to come for a night or to come each week.

For more information on volunteering with A New ERA, contact Mackenzie Lindquist at

This article was submitted by Ivy Estenson, contributing writer.

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