With Gratitude

By Nikki Cicerani

It’s days before Christmas. The demands of work have been enormous these past few weeks and as such, I have no presents for anyone (and my 4-year-old is definitely expecting Santa to deliver!). I have 191 unread emails in my priority inbox. It is during times like these that I feel more than gratitude and appreciation for the UpGlo staff, board, volunteers, corporate partners, donors and funders, and partners. I feel admiration and love.

After all, I’m not the only one with a long list of things that need attending to. We all have so many demands on our time and our emotional energy. We feel overwhelmed and it’s reasonable to focus inward and disengage.

Yet I have been constantly humbled and amazed this year, and every year, by the energy and dedication of our community. So many people have stepped up in ways great and small to support newly arrived immigrants and refugees, and to ensure that their contributions of ideas, culture, and experience are not lost.

The men and women who come through our program often tell us that UpGlo is like a professional family, there to support them through the hard times. The practical skills we provide are crucial — one of our alums recently told us that thanks to Upwardly Global he can now write a U.S.-style resume with his eyes closed. But I also feel tremendous pride in the connections we build: in the enduring friendships that develop between job coaches and program participants; in the moment when the lightbulb goes on for a volunteer or employer and they understand the value and potential in the immigrant professional sitting in front of them.

This year will likely be remembered as a tumultuous year, one that revealed some of the deep divides in our country. But I would like to reflect on the many examples of unity — like our New York staff member, Russ, bringing a Syrian job seeker who was new to the city to a Fourth of July party, or our alumnus husband and wife team, Rashidat and Lateef Jimoh, who started their own tax accounting firm and offered all our job seekers and alumni significantly discounted tax return services this year. I had the incredible experience of traveling to Berlin last spring to share innovations and strategies for refugee integration with colleagues abroad. I am eternally grateful to our dedicated staff, board, and to partners like Accenture, Walmart and the Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation, who really doubled down on immigrants and refugees during this time and gave us new tools and platforms to grow our programs.

One of my favorite memories — and one that for me exemplifies the UpGlo spirit — was our annual Passport to Possibilities Awards & Gala in New York. We held the event on Nov. 9th, one day after the election, and I genuinely wondered if we could pull it off amid the complicated reactions and emotions of that day. But our staff came energized and ready to work. Our honorees and guests were unwaveringly compassionate and enthusiastic. The night was a celebration of diversity and community, and it reminded me that one of the most profound gifts we can give is simply carving out the time to care, and to show up for each other.

Showing up for the men and women that we serve signals a belief in the fundamental American promise: that we are strengthened by each other’s successes. That everyone who comes here with the potential and the will to succeed deserves that shot. That despite the many different journeys that we take to get here, we all make up the fabric of this country.

Thank you to everyone who cares, and who helps make this promise a reality. We will see you in the new year.

Nikki Cicerani is the President and CEO of Upwardly Global.

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