Metro’s Office of New Americans to help foreign-born residents


NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) – Nashville’s stunning growth of 80 people a day is matched by an important group within that group.

The latest figures show that 12 percent of Nashville residents are foreign born.

With that in mind, an Office of New Americans was established in Nashville.  

That office is now a little more than a year old and has a new director.

Just one example of Nashville’s diversity is Charlotte Pike, which could be considered the epicenter of Vietnamese food with three highly-regarded restaurants within a mile of each other.

If you take a drive down Nolensville Road, for instance, you will be transported from Ishtar in the Middle East to a classic Mexican grocery store and butcher.

When you have 76,000 foreign-born people living in your city, it’s going to have an impact, and even its own government entity.

Nashville has an Office of New Americans, a kind of government welcome center.

“Moving into the county, I think, is just finding yourself welcome and finding allies and whether people see you as a human being or not, and then finding the resources and the support,” said Vanessa Lazon, who was appointed on Monday as Director of Community Inclusion within the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood and Community Engagement.

Lazon is the brand new single employee of a program that just reached its first birthday.

It has graduated its first class of 30 from the MyCity Academy, which takes foreign-born people and immerses them in everything Nashville.

“They get to learn basics of Nashville history, recycling water, Metro services, all kinds of stuff that is helpful when you come from another country,” said Lazon. “Some of those things aren’t on your radar.”

Then they are able to become leaders of their respective communities.

The second program is the Parent Ambassador Program where 20 foreign parents who navigated Metro schools help new foreign parents.

The third role is to help individuals like Hilda Cruz, who needs a lawyer to help finalize her citizenship.

“It’s important, she says. That’s safety for family and being a permanent resident provides her more chances to go to work,” said Lazon.

Lazon herself is an immigrant. She came to Nashville in 1997 from Peru, straight to Glencliff High School.

“We are all in this together and we are working together,” said Lazon. “You benefit, I benefit, we all benefit. It’s not you versus them or us versus them.”

Copyright 2016 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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