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Welcoming New Americans

Dr. William Lee is being honored as a White House Champion of Change for his leadership and commitment to the ideals of the YMCA.

Dr. William Lee is being honored as a White House Champion of Change for his leadership and commitment to the ideals of the YMCA.

Dr. William Lee

I am humbled and honored to accept the Champions Award on behalf of the YMCA of Greater New York. I have always believed in the power of volunteers to make change in our communities. As a volunteer and a Board member, I have had the opportunity to see good ideas, nurtured by volunteers, grow into powerful life changing opportunities for thousands of people.

Many years ago, as an immigrant to the USA, my wife and I experienced the challenges shared by millions of others. With the help of other immigrant volunteers we were able to create a YMCA program that provided educational and cultural support targeted to newly arrived Koreans.

I was very proud that the YMCA built the city-wide New Americans Welcome Center program using many aspects of that program as a model. The New American Welcome Centers of the               

YMCA of Greater New York addresses a widening service gap for the city’s fast-growing immigrant populations. 

Through six centers, scores of satellite locations and more than 130 partnerships citywide, the YMCA offers coordinated multilingual resources, referrals and services that helped more than 17,000 individuals and families achieve literacy, high school graduation and college placement, citizenship, cultural competence and self-sufficiency in 2012.

I am also proud that the program is offered free to all participants. Augmenting YMCA support, the program has attracted public funding and has a growing support among private donors and foundations.

1n 2012 the YMCA commissioned an Economic Impact Study by a third party research firm that used proven research methodology to determine some of the far reaching impacts of YMCA programs. Their results demonstrated that based on the success rate of over 62% of students moving to higher levels of English proficiency, $72,000,000 was added to the collective lifetime earnings of the students! Talk about impact!    

Also a testament to our success, one of our New Americans Welcome Centers won the NYC Mayor’s Dreamer Award for providing literacy, citizenship and employment readiness to residents of upper Manhattan and the Bronx.

As much as I have supported this program and the many other good programs of the YMCA, I am humbled to also know that this program attracts over 95 volunteers each year that assist with setting policy, coordinating referrals, and countless hours of teaching English to eager new Americans.

Dr. William Lee is a YMCA of Greater New York Board member and has helped develop the YMCA New American Program.