In Shelbyville, many people are demonstrating a sense of community by coming together, getting to know each other and communicating with openness and respect. These are the core principles of the Welcoming Tennessee work being done by Ms. Luci, Miguel and others in Shelbyville.
The Welcoming Tennessee Initiative is a statewide effort developed by the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) in 2006 to help improve relations between long-term residents and immigrant newcomers. With programs in three cities throughout Tennessee, the Welcoming Tennessee model is focused on understanding the concerns of long-term residents in demographically changing towns and coming up with ways to acknowledge and address them in order to maintain harmony in the community. By working with local “welcoming ambassadors” like Luci and Miguel, the Welcoming Tennessee Initiative is building understanding among diverse residents and enhancing communication.
Since its inception, the Welcoming Tennessee model has captured the attention of organizations and individuals in other states across the U.S. dealing with similar challenges related to immigration. This interest eventually led to the development of Welcoming America, a national, grassroots-driven umbrella organization that strives to replicate the Welcoming Tennessee model in communities across the country. The mission of Welcoming America is to promote mutual respect and cooperation between foreign-born and U.S.-born Americans. The ultimate goal is to create a welcoming atmosphere – community by community – in which immigrants are more likely to integrate into the social fabric of their adopted hometowns.