News & Views

Weekly Wins Round-Up: April 2021

Dear HIAS PA Supporter,

I want to thank everyone who joined us at and donated to the 2021 Golden Door Awards. We were proud to honor US Representative Mary Gay Scanlon, the Refugee Access Center at Snyder Church, and Ali Arif and Lara Ali, former refugee clients who continually give back to their community through their work with the Philadelphia School District. All of our honorees make Philadelphia a more welcoming place for immigrants, and we look forward to seeing what the future holds for each of them. 

As always, I’m overjoyed to share these HIAS PA wins and more with you!

Client achieves her dreams with the help of HIAS PA’s Women’s Empowerment group

One of the Women’s Empowerment (WE) group participants finished her 4-week Nurse Aide program successfully with a 94% mark on her final exam! She was very grateful because the WE program partially covered her tuition. The only thing that’s left for her is to take a statewide exam, get certified, and start working as a nurse aide. I’m so proud of her and happy for her! She added during our last group session: “Thank you, HIAS PA, very much for all your love and support so far! Someday, I will work for you and return everything you’ve done for me.”

-Lucy Rabbaa, Director of Social Services

HIAS PA helps children from the border create safe, new lives in Pennsylvania

As many of you know, hundreds of unaccompanied minors are crossing the border every day, and many of them are coming to Pennsylvania. We jumped from shelters being almost empty to them being very crowded. In just the past 10 days, we’ve served 51 minors in our program. My weekly win is that, along with Immigrant Youth Advocacy Program Supervising Attorney Mary McCabe and Immigrant Youth Advocacy Program Staff Attorney Naomi Iser, I am keeping afloat the workflow of our program, delivering Know Your Rights presentations, performing legal screenings, and all the office tasks that come with every new client.

-Tatiana A. Fisch, Immigrant Youth Advocacy Program Know Your Rights Specialist

Citizenship classes and virtual tours help clients acclimate to Philadelphia

This week saw the launch of our Philadelphia Citizen Action Network (P-CAN) citizenship class! 100% of the credit for getting this off the ground goes to ESL Instructor Rachel Aistrop, who is the teacher of the course. Rachel handled all the outreach to 26 (!) potential students, got completely trained and certified to administer CASAS tests, organized the testing day, prepared the lessons and led two fantastic classes! It’s been a real crash-course in US civics and naturalization, and she has handled every aspect of it with aplomb. Great job, Rachel! 

Also, a big shout out to Rachel and Video Production Assistant Parisa Khoshnood for organizing a really fun virtual field trip for our ESL classes! It was an “Experience Philly” tour, replete with Tastykakes, goody bags and live musical performances! (Props to Education Program Manager Valeri Harteg too for helping coordinate those.) We had three separate tours for each of our classes: beginner, intermediate and advanced. The students loved it!

-Charlie Heil, Adult Education Lead Instructor

Youth mentoring client and budding filmmaker hones video editing skills with HIAS PA

This past week was filled with lots of awesome moments, but I would say that one highlight for me was seeing our Zelda Video Project Assistant, Omran, who is also a junior in our High School Youth Mentoring Program, in action for the first time this week. Under Michelle’s guidance, Omran will be editing videos of interviews that Michelle and I are conducting with former school district refugee students and with immigrant parents with the ultimate goal of using these videos in PD sessions with school staff all across Philadelphia. I’ve known Omran since his family came through our R&P program in 2016, and he’s grown from an impossibly energetic and goofy middle schooler (a version of Omran that was tiring but, of course, wonderful) into a composed, professional, and focused young human. Michelle and I are SO proud!

-Valeri Harteg, Education Program Manager

Volunteer Wins

We so appreciate our volunteers! Join us in celebrating some of our Volunteer Wins from April!

Kindergartener writes his name!

My 6-year-old student, who has been deprived of in-person kindergarten for more than a year due to COVID-19, achieved an awesome success this week: He wrote his name! We have been practicing this important learning objective for the past few weeks. Each day, as I sketched his name in primary colors on a shared screen using my Zoom whiteboard, he traced each letter on the computer screen, saying the letters aloud. Yesterday, in a eureka moment, he actually wrote the letters of his name on paper using primary colors in tandem with me as I wrote them on the whiteboard!

-HIAS PA Volunteer

Grocery deliveries help to lessen the effects of isolation

Getting to do several grocery and supply runs for this older, homebound client this month has been a joy – she always greets me with a smile and we sing spirituals together from either side of the porch. This has been an isolating time for everyone and it’s a gift that the delivery of basic necessities can come with a little spark of neighborly interaction.

-Shane C., HIAS PA Volunteer

Thank you for your continued support of HIAS Pennsylvania. I hope that these Weekly Wins from HIAS PA staff have given you a lift, as they do me. Look out for more wins at the beginning of next month!

In health,

Cathryn Miller-Wilson