Giving immigrants a voice since 1992. Support us with your donations.

Framing Against Fear


Suggestions from the FrameWorks Institute’s Marisa Gerstein Pineau, PhD,
during the webinar Immigration, Safety and Security.



According to the Pew Research Center, for voters who supported the President in the 2016 election, the biggest issues facing the country were not jobs or the economy but illegal immigration and terrorism. These two issues are often conflated, yet the data tells a completely different story: the incarceration rate of undocumented immigrants is far lower than average, and the annual rate of being killed by foreign-born terrorism is less than 0.4 percent. Unfortunately, the facts are often not enough to change minds. If we truly want to change the immigration conversation, we must frame facts in a context that resonates with the listener and avoid phrases that have negative associations.

Framing messages puts an idea into context for fuller understanding and gives the speaker power to shift the conversation. Different frames can apply depending on the audience in order to find common ground. Stories of immigrants, for example, can be framed as an American story appealing to common values creating a feeling of unity rather than otherness. Every communication is more effective with thoughtful framing, even messages on social media with limited word counts. Retweeting or reposting a myth to refute it is tempting, one pager pic but repeating misinformation perpetuates the idea and strengthens false associations. Instead, project the truth in the positive form. For example, a post saying “Immigrants are criminals” can be corrected with “Immigrants have significantly lower incarceration rates and make outsized contributions to our communities.”

Experts in research, advocacy, law enforcement and framing joined The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute for a free webinar on Immigration, Safety and Security on October 4, 2017, to show how to change the conversation on immigrants, refugees and Americans’ safety. Click here to access recordings and slides from the webinar as well as a handy webinar summary.

Download One-Pager


Twenty-five years, 25 countries

Students and staff at The Immigrant Learning Center really are a global community right here in Malden, MA. Since the founding 25 years ago, the school has served students from 118 countries. In honor of the 25th anniversary, here is a list of the top 25 countries of origin for The ILC students.


1. Haiti 10. Ethiopia 19. Iran
2. China 12. India 22. Mexico
3. Morocco 13. Ukraine 23. Nepal
4. Brazil 14. Albania 24. Congo
5. El Salvador 15. Peru 24. Egypt
6. Vietnam 16. Guatemala
7. Russia 17. Dominican Republic
8. Colombia 18. Hong Kong
9. Turkey 19. Cameroon
10. Algeria 19. Honduras

Here’s a beautiful expression of all this diversity from our annual International Day celebration.

Tips for teachers to change the immigration conversation


Denzil Mohammed of The ILC Public Education Institute presents “Immigrants: Stats & Strategies to Change the Conversation” at the Massachusetts Coalition for Adult Education’s NETWORK 2017 Conference.


Adult educators looking to retake the immigration narrative got proven strategies from The ILC Public Education Institute’s Denzil Mohammed. At the Massachusetts Coalition for Adult Education’s NETWORK 2017 Conference in Marlborough, MA, on May 12, 2017, Denzil equipped teachers and administrators with “Stats and Strategies to Change the Immigration Conversation.”

Using findings from The FrameWorks Institute and The Opportunity Agenda revealed in the Institute’s February 23 webinar, Taking Back the Narrative, Denzil outlined research-based strategies for talking about immigration that educators can employ in and outside the classroom:

  • To promote a new narrative, always start with the facts and don’t repeat the myths when refuting them.
  • It is imperative that we frame immigration in terms of American values, such as shared prosperity or humanitarianism.
  • Offer pragmatic solutions to perceived problems and emphasize how other options are impractical.

When asked whether changing the conversation was feasible given the repeated rhetoric in the national immigration discussion, Denzil explained that countering the narrative will require a sustained approach rather than just one conversation. For more messaging strategies and techniques, see:


Immigrant entrepreneurs creating jobs

Immigrant entrepreneurs are job creators and innovators. The five nominees for The 2017 ILC Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards in the Business Growth category increased their number of full-time-equivalent employees by 40 to 388 percent over the past three years.

Vijay Nalamada
Avco Consulting, Worcester
from India

Vijay Nalamada is the CEO and founder of Avco Consulting, Inc. Since 1999, Avco has been providing IT consulting and software solutions and development. The company serves Fortune 500 clients in banking, finance and insurance, life science, retail, and high-tech industries. From 2013 to 2016 he has grown employment by 40 percent to 350 full-time-equivalent employees. Nalamada and the company also co-sponsor the India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF) “Cricket for a Cause” tournament that raises funds for projects ranging from residential hostels for boys and girls to hospitals to vocational training centers empowering underprivileged women in India.


US Bedding Inc., Fall River
from Vietnam

David Nguyen is a refugee from Vietnam who came to the United States at age 19 without money or knowledge of English. Working menial jobs, he managed to support his family while saving enough money to realize his dream of owning his own manufacturing business in 2002. Today, his company produces mattresses and pillows for retail sale and institutional use in a rehabilitated factory in Fall River. US Bedding Inc. is a major supplier for Costco and other national retailers and for My Pillow, Inc. for which they produce more than 4,000 pillows per day. His workforce has grown 166 percent in the last three years with a commitment to hire unemployed and under-employed workers from the lagging textile industry in the Fall River area. Nguyen is now actively planning a second facility devoted entirely to the production of institutional bedding, which will employ between one and 200 workers when fully staffed.


Daniel Perez
DPV Transportation Worldwide, East Boston
from Colombia

Daniel Perez is a self-funded and self-taught entrepreneur. He moved to the U.S. at age 11 and at 17 started DPV Transportation Worldwide, a luxury ground transportation services business in East Boston. Through grit and determination, even in the face of increasing competition from ride-hailing services, he has grown the company into a nearly $3-million-per-year business. His success has also meant more jobs for the local community. In the last three years alone, he has increased employment at DPV by 60 percent.


Jose de la Rosa
Guardian Healthcare, Jamaica Plain
from Dominican Republic

Jose de la Rosa came to Boston in 1989 and worked his way through school, earning a degree in finance despite knowing very little English. His wife, Zoraida de la Rosa, was a nurse who noticed a gap in services offered in home health care. To address this, De la Rosa and his wife founded Guardian Healthcare in 2008 with just three employees. In the last three years, employment has more than doubled to nearly 300 full-time-equivalent employees. The company has expanded from its original office in Jamaica Plain to additional offices in Springfield, Lawrence and Brockton and added a new division, Family Caregivers, to help family members care for young disabled individuals and the elderly at home. With more than 80,000 home visits to date, Guardian has provided much-needed linguistically- and culturally-competent care to elderly and disabled adults throughout the state of Massachusetts. De la Rosa often gets invited to speak about health concerns at community events and has been selected by the Association of Latino Professionals for America to receive its Excellence in Service to the Community Award.


Amir Shiranian
Amelia’s Taqueria, Inc., Boston
from Iran

Amir Shiranian’s father and grandfather were rug merchants in Iran. Naturally, when he decided to settle in Boston after attending college here, Shiranian opened a rug store. He owned and operated The Persian Gallery from 1999-2004 before he reopened as the Medallion Gallery in 2006 on Boylston Street.  His early experience in the restaurant business while working his way through college and his passion for creating jobs led him to open a restaurant. He now has two locations for Amelia’s Taqueria employing 40 people and plans to open his third in Cleveland Circle in the spring. Shiranian’s restaurants are actively involved in the community, hosting eight to 10 fundraising events per month, mostly affiliated with a group or department at Northeastern University.

Immigrant Entrepreneurs on the Cape

Immigrant entrepreneurs are making their mark across Massachusetts, and Cape Cod is no exception. As this year’s nominees for show, the Cape is benefiting from the entrepreneurial spark of its immigrant residents.

Jitka BorowickJitka Borowick
Cleangreen, Inc., Barnstable
from Czech Republic
Category: Neighborhood Business

Jitka Borowick came to the U.S. in 2003 from the Czech Republic to further her education. After earning her bachelor’s degree, she decided to pursue her dream of starting her own business and doing something positive for the environment. In 2008, she opened Cleangreen, a natural cleaning company, out of her home. Today, Cleangreen is a Cape and Islands Green Verified business with an office in Barnstable, four cars and a crew of 19 people covering residential and commercial clients throughout Cape Cod.

Through Cleangreen, Borowick donates funds and in-kind services to many local organizations, including the Cape Cod Commercial Fisherman’s Alliance, Cape Cod Charitable Fundraisers, Calmer Choice, John. F. Kennedy Museum, Cape and Island United Way, Flower Angels USA, and Hyannis Rotary Club. She was awarded “40 Under 40” from Cape & Plymouth Business, recognized as one of 10 Inspiring Women by Cape Cod Magazine and awarded Business Woman of the Year in 2015 from Cape & Plymouth Business.

Harley Silva

Harley croppedCape Cod Marble & Granite, Inc., Hyannis
from Brazil
Category: Neighborhood Business

Harley Silva started Cape Cod Marble & Granite, Inc. in 2005 by himself in a small, rented room. Little by little he grew the company into the largest fabricator on the Cape. Cape Cod Marble & Granite serves not only the Cape but the Islands and eastern Massachusetts as well. Silva also invests in the community. He is a member of the CCYP Mentors Program and Giving Circle, participates in the Hyannis Rotary through the Home & Garden Show, belongs to the Home Builders & Remodeling Association of Cape Cod, as well as the Massachusetts Masons Fraternal Lodge A.F. & A.M. He also supports the Barnstable Police Patrolmen’s Union and the Massachusetts Environmental and Nantucket High School fundraisers.

Immigrant Entrepreneurs in Cambridge

Cambridge is a hub of innovation not just for Massachusetts but for the country as a whole. From world-renowned Universities to industry powerhouses to cutting-edge start-ups, Cambridge wouldn’t be Cambridge without immigrants. The 2017 ILC Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards nominees from Cambridge are outstanding examples.


Albaiti croppedAhmed Albaiti
Medullan Inc., Cambridge
from Tanzania
Category: High-Tech Business

Ahmed Albaiti is the founder of Medullan, Inc., a digital health firm that delivers innovative, patient-centric solutions for the major players in healthcare such as Illumina, Humana, Mass General Hospital and Aetna. Medullan works with payer, life sciences and pharmaceutical clients to build solutions that create measurable business value and positive impact in the lives of their customers. Recent projects have included a care coordination platform, a tool for communicating genetic health information and the world’s first wellness platform to fully integrate first and third party data. Since its inception in 2005, Medullan has been awarded the Boston Business Journal’s Pacesetter award five times.


Johannes Fruehauf Johannes Fruehauf
BioLabs, Cambridge
from Germany
Category: Life Science Business

Dr. Johannes Fruehauf is founder, president and CEO of BioLabs Cambridge and the BioLabs network. BioLabs builds and operates premium co-working laboratory facilities around the country, designed specifically for science-based startups to help them go further, faster on limited capital investment. Dr. Fruehauf is also co-founder and president of a nonprofit subsidiary, LabCentral, (part of the BioLabs network). This business model reduces the capital needs for startup biotech companies by a factor of 10 to 20 times, allowing startups to focus precious resources on advancing their science and building their companies. Since opening, more than 150 companies have been created at Biolabs and LabCentral, and they have raised more than $1 billion in venture capital, grants and other sources of funding to further their research and commercialization goals. Dr. Fruehauf is also a co-founder and general partner at BioInnovation Capital, a seed- and early-stage venture fund investing in biotech and life-sciences opportunities and a member of the New England Venture Capital Association board of directors.


Olle croppedBernat Olle
Vedanta Biosciences, Cambridge
from Spain
Category: Life Science Business

Dr. Bernat Olle is the co-founder and CEO of Vedanta Biosciences. The company is developing a new class of drugs that work by modulating the human microbiome, which is increasingly recognized as a key factor in autoimmune, metabolic and infectious diseases. Vedanta has generated a pipeline of drug candidates including a candidate in inflammatory bowel diseases licensed to Johnson & Johnson in 2015 in the largest deal in the microbiome space to date by a pharmaceutical company. The drug is now being brought into clinical trials for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. A second Vedanta drug candidate is starting clinical trials in 2017 for treatment of recurrent C. difficile infections.

In 2013, Dr. Olle was named “Innovator of the Year” in MIT Technology Review, Spain’s “Innovators under 35” awards, and in 2015, he was awarded the Princess of Girona business award by the King of Spain. He is also a venture partner at PureTech Health, a Boston-based venture group where he has been a member of the founding teams of several companies.


ParayilAjikumar Parayil
Manus Bio, Cambridge
from India
Category: Life Science Business

Dr. Ajikumar Parayil is an entrepreneurial scientist who has co-founded multiple companies, including Mirakel Technologies, an innovative start up in hair care and cosmetics and Manus Biosynthesis (Manus Bio), a world leader in the production of plant-based natural ingredients through advanced fermentation technologies. Dr. Parayil is an inventor on more than 20 U.S. and international patents. The foundational elements for Manus Bio’s technology was developed by Dr. Parayil during his tenure at MIT. The first products in Manus Bio’s pipeline have been developed with over $25 million in customer R&D funding to date and are nearing commercialization with an addressable market of more than $7 billion.



VennaNagarjuna Venna
Bitsight, Cambridge
from India
Category: High-Tech Business

Nagarjuna Venna founded his first company, Saperix, in 2010 and sold it to Firemon in 2011. He got to work quickly and co-founded Bitsight later that same year. BitSight provides evidence-based ratings of security effectiveness to help organizations manage their security risk and the risks posed by third parties to more than 650 customers worldwide.

Venna has effectively created a new cybersecurity market, which information technology research and advisory firm Gartner termed “Security Rating Services (SRS).” The importance of cybersecurity ratings is so great that, according to Gartner, by 2022 SRS will become as important as credit rating services when assessing business partnerships for risk and viability. In 2016, Bitsight was selected by Forbes as one of 25 companies on its Next Billion Dollar Startup list.

High-Tech Business nominees for The 2017 ILC Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards

Immigrants are a critical part of the innovation economy. The first three nominations for this year’s ILC Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards in High-Tech Business are living proof.

See details on how to nominate by the March 10 deadline here.

Lingping Gao
NetBrain, Burlington
from China

GaoAs a network engineer, Lingping Gao spent years managing enterprise networks and was frustrated by the tedious, manual nature of the work and the high cost of failure (a network outage can cost up to $200,000 an hour). In 2004, he founded NetBrain to automate critical network tasks and free up engineers to focus on more important and challenging work. By doing so, Gao not only helped companies save time and money, he created a whole new market.

NetBrain has become a global player with 350 employees in offices in China, Germany and California, in addition to its headquarters in Burlington, Mass. More than 1,500 of the world’s largest enterprises and managed services providers, including Microsoft, Santander and British Telecom, use NetBrain.


Luis Pedroso
Accutronics, Inc., Chelmsford
from Portugal

AccutronicsIn 1984, at the age of 24, Luis Pedroso founded his first company, Qualitronics, Inc., with three employees. He grew it to 165 employees by 2000 when it was sold to MSL. In 2004, he co-founded Accutronics. Both are contract electronics manufacturers that provide high-tech manufacturing capabilities to companies from start-ups to the Fortune 500. Pedroso is responsible for the creation of hundreds of jobs and the launch of countless new products.

Pedroso is both generous and proud of his heritage. He co-founded the Saab-Pedroso Center for Portuguese Culture and Research at UMass Lowell, is the largest private donor to the Helio and Amelia Pedroso Endowed Chair in Portuguese Studies at UMass Dartmouth, and created the Portuguese American Scholarship Fund to serve students of Portuguese heritage at Lowell High School. He is a trustee of Theodore Edson Parker Foundation and Circle Health/Lowell General Hospital and has served as president of The Greater Lowell Community Foundation.


Nagarjuna Venna
Bitsight, Cambridge
from India

VennaNagarjuna Venna founded his first company, Saperix, in 2010 and sold it to Firemon in 2011. He got to work quickly and co-founded Bitsight later that same year. BitSight provides evidence-based ratings of security effectiveness to help organizations manage their security risk and the risks posed by third parties to more than 650 customers worldwide.

Venna has effectively created a new cybersecurity market, which information technology research and advisory firm Gartner termed “Security Rating Services (SRS).” The importance of cybersecurity ratings is so great that, according to Gartner, by 2022 SRS will become as important as credit rating services when assessing business partnerships for risk and viability. In 2016, Bitsight was selected by Forbes as one of 25 companies on its Next Billion Dollar Startup list.

25 Entrepreneurs

Immigrant Entrepreneur Hall of FameThe Immigrant Entrepreneur Hall of Fame was launched in on January 25, 2012, to bring to light the importance of immigrant entrepreneurs in the United States. This year, The Immigrant Learning Center celebrates our 25th anniversary. In honor of our 25 years and the contributions of these entrepreneurs, we present the top 25 immigrant entrepreneurs in the Hall of Fame, ranked by page views.


  1. Bahram Akradi, founder of Life Time Fitness, Inc., from Iran
  2. Sergey Brin, co-founder of Alphabet (Google), from Russia
  3. Alexander Graham Bell, founder of AT&T, Verizon and Avaya, from Scotland
  4. Maxwell Kohl, founder of Kohl’s, from Poland
  5. Andrew Carnegie, founder of Carnegie Mellon University, United States Steel, Carnegie Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York and TIAA, from Scotland
  6. Francisco D’Souza, Cognizant Technology Solutions, from India
  7. Jerry Yang, founder of Yahoo!, from Taiwan
  8. Elon Musk, founder of PayPal, SpaceX and Tesla Motors, from South Africa
  9. Max and Morris Feldberg, founders of TJX Companies, Inc. and BJ’s Wholesale Club, from Russia
  10. Sol A. Shenk, founder of Big Lots Inc., from Russia
  11. Theodore Deutschmann, founder of RadioShack, from England
  12. Adolphus Busch, founder of Anheuser-Busch, from Germany
  13. James J.L. Kraft, founder of Kraft Heinz and Mondelez International, Inc., from Canada
  14. John W. Nordstrom, founder of Nordstrom, Inc., from Sweden
  15. Eleuthère Irénée du Pont, founder of E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, from France
  16. Charles Pfizer, founder of Pfizer, Inc., from Germany
  17. Daniel Aaron, co-founder of Comcast Corporation, from Germany
  18. Don Prudencio Unanue, founder of Goya Foods, from Spain
  19. John Muir, founder of The Sierra Club, from Scotland
  20. Jean-Luc Vaillant, co-founder of LinkedIn, from France
  21. Tariq Farid, founder of Edible Arrangements and Netsolace, Inc., from Pakistan
  22. Marcelo Claure, co-founder of Brightstar Corp., from Guatemala
  23. Andreas (Andy) von Bechtolsheim, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, Inc.,
    Granite Systems, HighBAR Partners, Kealia, Inc. and Arista Networks, from Germany
  24. Steve Chen, co-founder of YouTube, from Taiwan
  25. Roy and Bertrand Sosa, founders of NetSpend Corporation and MPOWER Labs, from Mexico

Neighborhood nominees for The 2017 ILC Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards

The first three nominations for this year’s ILC Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards are in, and they are fine examples of how immigrants are enhancing our neighborhoods. See details on how to nominate by the March 10 deadline here.
TailsYessy Feliz
Tails, Inc., Jamaica Plain
from Dominican Republic

Yessy Feliz opened a very small storefront business for boarding dogs in October 2012. Less than five years later, her business has become so popular that it grosses enough revenue to employ more than 22 people who live in the neighborhood, most of whom speak second languages. Tails is an integral part of the neighborhood’s personality. It not only provides a needed service to local pet owners, it also serves as a convening location for people to interact spontaneously and to celebrate special events.

In October 2016, Feliz seized the opportunity to merge the two storefronts she was operating on opposite sides of Centre Street into one complex of boarding facilities, retail space, and open areas for doggie exercise. She also soundproofed the buildings, much to the delight of the neighbors.


Mario Cruz
Mario’s Sub & Salads, Roxbury
from Guatemala

Mario Cruz started Mario’s Subs & Salads in 2006. The sub shop is a popular destination and even won a people’s choice competition run by Dudley Square Main Streets.

Cruz recently decided that continued success would require some upgrades to keep up with the times and grow. He is expanding the restaurant physically and adding offerings such as burritos, tortas, Spanish stews and tostadas to the menu. He has also added three new part-time jobs.

Cruz is active in community events. He donates food for National Night Out and holiday celebrations and participates in Main Streets promotions.

Khamtam Inthirath
Envision Digital Group, Worcester
from Laos

Inthirath croppedKhamtam Inthirath is the founder of the digital marketing firm Envision Digital Group. In addition to providing superior service to his clients, he is heavily involved in his community. Inthirath shares his expertise as a volunteer business advisor for the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce and a mentor to students at his alma mater, Providence College. His firm donates services, such as videos for Boston and Worcester “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” campaigns, awareness campaigns about the opioid abuse epidemic in MA and a workforce development campaign for National Manufacturing Day. As a member of Discover Central Massachusetts’ PR/marketing committee, Inthirath also promotes travel and tourism to Central Massachusetts.

For his business success and propensity to give back, Inthirath was recently honored as a 40-under-40 recipient by the Worcester Business Journal.

Twenty-Five Years, 25 Memories

From ILC Founder and CEO, Diane Portnoy:

The Immigrant Learning Center was born 25 years ago. They say it takes a village to raise a child. It certainly has taken a whole community of supporters to make The ILC a success. Here are some of my most poignant memories from the last 25 years of the people and events that made The ILC what it is today.

  • In 1992, I knew I wanted to start a free English school. With no fundraising experience, I reached out to friends and family for support. Kay and Gerry Martin and Anders Schroeder were the first to say yes and make my dream possible.

First day of class, Nov. 9, 1992

  • On November 9, 1992, my dream came true when the doors of The Immigrant Learning Center opened with three teachers, 60 students and 80 on the waiting list.
  • We grew quickly, and in June 1994, moved from Pleasant Street to our current home at 442 Main Street, where we could serve 100 students with six teachers and a waiting list of 300.
  • An ILC teacher quickly becomes a very important, trusted person in our students’ lives. Sometimes, ILC staff are the only Americans our students know. Teachers were reporting to me that they were getting a lot of life, career, ongoing education and even immigration questions. In 1995, I decided to hire a guidance counselor to give students the assistance they need and let the teachers concentrate on teaching.

Family Literacy (3)

  • I visit all the classrooms and try to get to know as many students as possible. In 1996, I noticed a group of a dozen grandmothers who spoke no English and were the primary care givers for their grandchildren. Remembering the struggles of my own parents, we created Family Literacy classes to help them navigate the U.S. education system and promote literacy at home.
  • Another unmet need became clear in 1997. Many of our students wanted to become U.S. citizens and were asking teachers and the guidance counselor for help. Knowing how important citizenship is and remembering how hard my parents studied for the test, I started a Citizenship Class.
  • Over 25 years, we’ve served students from 118 different countries. Students share a classroom with strangers from a dozen different countries and bond like family. To celebrate this diversity, we created an annual International Day in 1999 where students can celebrate and share their cultural heritage.
  • The school and I have received many honors and recognition over the years. One of the highlights of my life came in May 2001 when I was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. It was my second time on Ellis Island, the first being when I arrived from Germany as a child. I’ll never forget seeing my and my parent’s names etched on the wall there.
  • One of the lowest points in my life also came in 2001 on September 11. In the days and weeks following the attacks the classrooms emptied. Students were afraid to come to school because strangers were accosting them on the street. I knew I had to do something to address public opinion of immigrants, and the seeds of the Public Education Institute started to grow.
  • On April 5, 2002, we marked the expansion of The ILC to the first floor of 442 Main Street with a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by a crowd of supporters including Rep. Chris Fallon and Mayor Richard Howard. It felt like we made the big time when the Rodman & Rodman sign on the front of the building was replaced by The Immigrant Learning Center. The extra space allowed us to serve 320 students and expand the computer lab.
  • Immigrant Theater Class April 2015One of our teachers with a personal interest in theater, Kathleen Klose, wanted to help students tell their stories and started meeting with a handful of students before class. In August 2003, they performed If You Could Hear My Voice at the Malden Library. Watching that first performance, I knew we had something special. The Theater Class has been part of our offerings ever since.
  • After more than a year of planning, Dr. Marcia Drew Hohn agreed to leave her post as director of Northeast SABES (System for Adult Basic Education Support) to launch The ILC public education effort in July 2003.
  • Computer Lab2 smallIn 2004, IBM donated 27 new computers to transform our patched together collection of computers into a real computer lab where to this day every student has access.
  • Governor Mitt Romney visited The ILC on May 13, 2004, to meet with 120 students and learn firsthand how public and private investment in adult literacy programs, particularly for immigrants and refugees, ultimately benefits the commonwealth.
  • The first two studies to come out of the Public Education Program (now the Public Education Institute), Immigrant Entrepreneurs and Neighborhood Revitalization and Immigrant Homebuyers in Lawrence and Lowell, were unveiled to more than 125 business and community leaders at the Omni Parker House on December 1, 2005.
  • Noticing that students who struggled the most in our classes were those with little or no literacy in their native language, the Literacy Program was launched in 2006. From humble beginnings as a “one-room school house,” it has evolved into a sophisticated multi-level program that serves as a model in the region.
  • Many students have offered to give back over the years, but Tam, a Senior Conversation student from Vietnam, stands out. Starting in 2009, each year he brings me 100 one dollar bills.

New citizens taking the Oath of Allegiance

  • Although Malden has one of the largest foreign-born populations in the area, new citizens had to go elsewhere to be sworn-in. That changed in 2011 when The ILC sponsored our first, annual swearing-in ceremony. There’s something very special about watching people of every color from many religions, ages and economic statuses hold the American flag in one hand and raise the other to take the oath of citizenship. It reminds me of being eight years old and watching my parents become U.S. citizens.
  • In 2011, with 400 students enrolled I finally had to admit I couldn’t manage it all myself. Karen Oakley was promoted from teacher to the newly-created position of director of English language programs.
  • I wanted a university partner to get the national attention needed for our research, and, in 2011, I identified George Mason University (GMU) as the best choice. I recall the first meeting in Virginia where they told me it couldn’t work as well as the meeting where we signed the contract that created the Institute for Immigration Research at GMU.

Diane Portnoy, ILC founder and CEO, left, and Marcia Drew Hohn, director of The ILC Public Education Institute, stand with 2014 ILC Immigrant Entrepreneur of the Year award winners Rosa Tejeda, Nisaury Tejeda, Fitzroy Alexander, Josef von Rickenbach, Victoria Amador and Dr. Fauzia Khan. At right is master of ceremonies Richard A. Davey, Jr., secretary and CEO, MA Department of Transportation, and ILC trustee.

  • The research of the Public Education Institute showed over and over that immigrant entrepreneurs are drivers of our economy. In 2012, we decided to spotlight their contributions at the annual ILC Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards. We underestimated the attendance and had to scramble for seats at the last minute. With the room bursting with people, and the entrepreneurs bursting with pride, we started a tradition that will last for many years.
  • We started offering an annual, free summer workshop on immigration for educators in 2004, but what stands out in my memory was the first time we took it online in 2012. We overcame a slew of technical challenges with a budget of $0. This important shift has allowed us to reach hundreds of educators across the country.
    Immigrant Struggles, Immigrant Gifts
  • Hearing the same disparaging un-truths being told about today’s immigrants that have been used for hundreds of years, I finally decided to stop yelling back at that the television news and do something. We commissioned 11 experts to tell the stories of 11 different ethnic groups in the book Immigrant Struggles, Immigrant Gifts. I will always remember the feeling of accomplishment the first time I held the book in my hands.
  • Our teachers and counselors help students with their next steps, such as enrolling in classes or finding a job, but were at a loss when students wanted to start a business. The solution came in 2016 when we launched the Entrepreneur Class. Since so much of our work in Public Education is touting the virtues of immigrant entrepreneurs, this felt like the perfect “next step” for us.
  • The ILC has never advertised. All our students come to us from word of mouth. It’s not uncommon for former students to bring in friends and family to register. It’s always a joy for me to see returning students and learn what they have made of their lives. The most recent was in January 2017 when Narciso came in to register his cousin and tell us he had opened his own auto body shop.

The Immigrant Learning Center, 442 Main Street, Malden, Massachusetts, 02148     (781) 322-9777

   Site Map   ::    Directions   ::    Contact Us   ::    Website Sponsors