We Are New York Community Leadership and Empowerment Project
We Are New York (WANY) is an Emmy-Award winning educational television series produced by the NYC Mayor's Office and the City University of New York. The 10-episode comedic drama is based on true-to-life stories of immigrants making their way in New York City. Each episode provides useful information on essential City services and shows how people working across ethnic lines can access resources and solve common problems.
Immigrants learning English have found the show especially helpful because the production values (e.g., actors speaking clearly and slowly directly into the camera; repetition of key vocabulary; subtitles; etc.) make the content accessible in ways unlike any other English-language TV show. Viewers want to watch the show because they can understand the English, the storyline is filled with topics that are relevant to their everyday lives, and the cast reflects the demographics of the City's immigrant population. The working class immigrant heroes of WANY contend with asthma and diabetes; they find ways to support their children's education and prevent teenagers from dropping out; and they figure out the banking system.
WANY has been used throughout the City's adult education system to help tens of thousands of New Yorkers improve their English. Over 500 teachers have been trained to use WANY in their classrooms and over 90 percent report their students have benefited from the series. Almost every teacher trained to use WANY would recommend it to a colleague. And the vast majority of students rated the learning experience as excellent or very good. Unfortunately, every English program has a waiting list and there is little prospect to expand the formal adult education system.
The Community Leadership and Empowerment Project will expand the City’s efforts to help new immigrants learn English by recruiting 200 volunteers to facilitate 10-week conversation groups using WANY in libraries and other community-based sites. The Project will also work closely with Universal Pre-Kindergarten sites and elementary schools to ensure that parents of young children are engaged with this new resource. By the end of the first year, the Project will involve an estimated 2,000 immigrants and will provide referrals to additional resources and learning opportunities at the end of the 10-week conversation group.
The Project will promote leadership skills of the volunteer facilitators by approaching each conversation group as a community organizing project for them to lead. Volunteers will receive training in facilitation methods, group dynamics, anti-racist methodology, community building, and related topics. They will have the opportunity to participate in on-going community leadership seminars.
Conversation groups will emphasize English for empowerment by stressing the language needed to access resources, to advocate for one's family, and to organize with neighbors to pursue common goals.