From the Director: Welcoming Michigan’s Christina Sauvé Awarded “Champion of Change”

Global Detroit Launched Initiative Receives White House Recognition

 By Steve Tobocman

On Thursday, September 19th, the White House recognized ten individuals and their pioneering practices to advance immigrant inclusion in ways that involve U.S.-born residents and the community as a whole to foster successful immigrant integration.  Among the Champions of Change national honorees was Welcoming Michigan’s own Christine Sauvé.  Christine coordinates activities in southeast Michigan for the Welcoming Michigan project, a statewide grassroots immigrant integration initiative of the Michigan Immigrants Rights Center that was the first Global Detroit initiative to launch from the recommendations of the 2010 Global Detroit study.

Christine has been an outstanding leader, making the Welcoming Michigan program into one of the most active and productive of the 22 state- and local affiliates of the national Welcoming America campaign.  Through dialogue, shared meals, and other opportunities for cross-cultural learning, Welcoming America and Welcoming Michigan foster mutual respect and understanding between U.S. and foreign-born residents.

Since launching in 2012, Christine has helped Welcoming Michigan create connections between neighbors at over 50 events with over 2,000 attendees. Christine received her MSW from the University of Michigan School of Social Work and is a multicultural community organizer dedicated to creating social change in metro Detroit. In 2012 she received a Diversity Distinction Award from the City of Sterling Heights, MI and previously served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mauritania and Senegal in West Africa.

The Ten Welcoming America Champions of Change were honored in a live broadcasted White House event that included White House Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Munoz and White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs (and University of Michigan Law School graduate) Valerie Jarrett.  Christine’s award and the inclusion of Welcoming Michigan’s work among the honorees further secured our region and state’s place among the national leaders in immigrant welcoming and integration.  The award further demonstrates the tangible impact that Global Detroit and its affiliated programs are having and the accolades the work is bringing the region.

As noted by the White House’s Champion of Change press release, “As the debate in Washington on immigration moves forward, local community leaders across the country are recognizing that immigrants make us stronger and are working in their communities to create welcoming climates that harness the economic and social potential that newcomers bring.”

The Welcoming America Champions of Change included local leaders from across the country whose cutting edge initiatives – from Dayton to Detroit – demonstrate the growing interest among local communities to ensure that everyone – including immigrants – have the opportunity to contribute and succeed.  As the country is reshaped by demographic change, the recognized leaders and programs offer a fresh vision for how communities can make the most of their diversity.

Welcoming America Executive Director David Lubell noted, “At a crucial moment in our history, the Welcoming America Champions of Change serve as a model for what we can achieve when we recognize the tremendous contributions that immigrants make to the social and economic fabric of American communities.  These champions are innovators who are building stronger communities by helping newcomers succeed, and inviting longer-term residents to contribute to and share in that success.“

The ceremony was hosted by the White House during the second annual National Welcoming Week.  This national week-long event included a proclamation signed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder recognizing the importance of immigrants as key to Michigan’s prosperity and innovation, as well as more than 100 volunteer events across the country that underscored the contributions of immigrants to local cultural and economic life.

Since the Global Detroit study was issued in June 2010, over $5.5 million in philanthropic and government funding have been allocated to launching the recommendations of the Global Detroit study to pursue strategies that will make Metro Detroit a rapid growth and high prosperity region by tapping into the strengths that immigrants and internationals bring.  Congratulations to Christine and Welcoming Michigan, as well as the local Welcoming committees in Sterling Heights, Hamtramck, and Chadsey-Condon in Detroit.  This was a national honor well deserved!

Welcoming Michigan, Southeast Michigan Coordinator Christina Sauvé (far right) joins Welcoming American Board President Dan Rearick (second row far left), Welcome Dayton Founder Tom Wahlrab (second row center), Welcoming America Executive Director David Lubell (second row far right), Welcoming America Director of Affiliate Programs Ellen Gallagher (front row left) and other honorees at White House Champions of Change ceremony.

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