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YMCA of Central Massachusetts: Helping the Y to Further Integrate Newcomer Populations through Community Engagement & Encouragement


Migration from one country to another is a challenging journey that many people in the United States have experienced. Thirty-seven thousand Irish men and women migrated into Boston, Massachusetts because of the potato famine in 1847. More recently, the devastating 2010 earthquake that occurred in Haiti caused the migration of approximately 58,000 Haitian immigrants into the United States. The people who immigrated into the United States in the previous two cases are known as newcomers – foreign born people that are still becoming acquainted with a new area and experience difficulties integrating into their new communities due to cultural differences and language barriers. Other challenges such as employment and educational differences contribute to the hardship that newcomer populations experience when arriving in a foreign country.


Worcester is not unaccustomed to welcoming newcomers. In fact, the United States Census Bureau (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010-14) and other government websites, such as the American Community Survey, solicit data on newcomer populations. Between 2007 and 2012, Worcester welcomed approximately 2,196 refugees, which represents 26% of Massachusetts’s total refugee population; this is more than any other municipality in Massachusetts (Fábos, 2015). During these six years, the refugees came from 24 different countries. Migrants from the populations of Burma, Iraq, and Bhutan made up more than 70% of the total newcomer population in Worcester. A previous study completed by a WPI student project team (Campbell, D. et al.), discovered that targeting the aforementioned newcomer populations in Worcester is especially important for community inclusiveness.

Worcester’s large population of newcomers reflects the idea that the United States of America is multicultural and welcomes people of all cultures, religions, and ethnicities. Many nonprofit organizations have emerged with a mission to support Worcester’s various newcomer populations. Ascentria Care Alliance (ACA, 2016), Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS, 2016), the Boys and Girls Club (BGC, 2009), and the Worcester Refugee Assistance Project (WRAP, 2016) are some examples of organizations in Worcester that have developed newcomer integration programs.



The Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA or the Y) is a nonprofit organization, which is dedicated to engaging the community through youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. The YMCA of Central Massachusetts wants to abide by its mission – to guarantee that there is always a place for newcomers to feel welcome. In doing so, they believe that a stronger initiative can be made to further integrate newcomer populations in Worcester. The Y envisions an event in the fall of 2016 that welcomes newcomers and encourages social inclusion. The Y has collaborated with the Worcester Community Project Center (WCPC) to partner with a team of student researchers dedicated to helping The Y achieve their goal.


(Group Members name and major from left to right)
Tristan Petit – Biomedical Engineering class of 2017
Elina Saint-Elme – Robotics and Mechanical Engineering class of 2017
Heather Stratica – Biomedical Engineering class of 2017
Mikayla Bolduc – Biomedical Engineering class of 2017


Enhance relationships between Worcester’s newcomer populations and the Y by developing a more welcoming community for families.


1. Identified community leaders within newcomer populations

2. Identified the needs and interests of newcomer populations

3. Created instruction manual for final event



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