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By Justine Okello, Vocational Counseling Services Coordinator 

About the Author

“The power of education extends beyond the development of skills we need for economic success. It can contribute to nation-building and reconciliation.”
– Nelson Mandela

If you have come to this page looking for an older Thought Leadership piece, please scroll down to the archives.


The Ideal Candidate


One afternoon in the height of summer 2016, I am in the middle of my normal weekly classes in Clarkston teaching Digital Literacy to a group of adult immigrants and refugees who have little-to-no computer skills when I hear a knock on the door. All of my students turn to see who is interrupting their session. I excuse myself and open the door.

It is a woman seeking to learn to use the computer to apply for a job at a grocery store. She tells me that she is a refugee from South Sudan and has been referred to me after she was asked to fill out an online job application at the store, but she couldn’t because she had never used a computer before. She says she felt so embarrassed. I ask her to register for my classes and I help her with the application the following day. When I tell the students about the situation, they are pleased.

Over the years in my journey giving back and offering myself to help others, I have focused on disadvantaged individuals and communities both locally and internationally. I find joy in helping people like this woman find answers to challenging situations.

We are all trying to be the best of ourselves regardless of where we all originated from, racially or regionally. The forces of the universe and works of mankind have greatly influenced and contributed to the current state of the world – global warming, hate and racial discrimination, sexual discrimination, closing borders to people fleeing for their lives and many other terrible things. All of this has destabilized the well-being of humankind around the globe.

Families are spread all over the world as refugees or immigrants. Displaced people may be skilled or unskilled – either way, they have the will and ability to contribute to the workforce in their new country of resettlement.

“Education is the key!” This message has been repeatedly iterated in families across the board – both locally and all over the world. For individuals specifically in countries that are greatly affected by civil wars, torture and persecution, they don’t get to ripen the fruits of their education and, as immigrants they find themselves being treated as though they are uneducated and worthless.

It’s unfortunate that the skills of these people have been underutilized, which means that the economy is not benefitting from having skilled workers in jobs where they can contribute to their specialty. Here in the U.S., companies are slowly learning to hire immigrants and refugees in more advanced positions, realizing that they, too, can be the ideal candidate for a job.

For immigrants and refugees with highly specialized skills and graduate-level credentials in fields such as engineering, medicine and teaching, New AP’s Career Services department connects them to skill-building opportunities to ensure that refugees build on their individual skills to help them realize their American dream.

I joined New AP with a desire to continue my service of helping disadvantaged or low-income individuals and families. And as the new Vocational Counselor, it’s been very rewarding to be able to help individuals seeking to further their careers in a variety of fields. This responsibility is generously shared with both New AP staff and other supporting organizations, individuals and companies hiring or mentoring the respective clients.

I invite you to join me in the effort to help Georgia’s refugees and immigrants achieve their professional goals and dreams. Open your doors to an immigrant or refugee and offer to support one to use his or her skills to better serve the country and his or her family.

Archived Thought Leadership Stories

July 2018: My Role in Welcoming, and Being Welcomed by Mary Martha Myette

April 2018: Why I Serve with Refugees by Minji Kim

February 2018: Where are the Refugees? by Stephanie Jackson Ali

January 2018: Sharing Riches Through Mentorship by Kelsey Smith

December 2017: Thoughts on Doing Good This Season by Andrew Leba

October/November 2017: Thoughts on Thankfulness by Paedia Mixon

September 2017: Undocumented and Unafraid: My Parents, My Heroes by Raymond Partolan

August 2017: Building PathDriver: My Path to Drive an Impact by Robin Deutsch Edwards

July 2017: Civic Engagement Regardless of Citizenship by Maria del Rosario Palacios

June 2017: Celebrating World Refugee Day by Rabbi Peter S. Berg

May 2017: Love>Fear: And It’s Good For Business by Bonnie Kallenberg

April 2017:Talking with Babies Makes Their Brains Smarter by Nitza Vega-Lahr, Ph.D.

March 2017: It’s All About Student Support by Terry Segovis

February 2017: Clarkston, Georgia: An Ever-Changing Town by Awet Eyasu

January 2017: Reclaiming Georgia’s Legacy of Love by Paedia Mixon

December 2016: Reflections on Welcoming Communities Trip to Germany by Alicia Phillip

November 2016: Thanksgiving in America by Bishop Robert Wright

October 2016: Voting: The Real American Dream by Elizabeth Poythress

August/September 2016: From the Road: das Willkommen by Paedia Mixon

July 2016: My Life In AmeriCorps by Lauren Mertens

June 2016: Reflecting On World Refugee Day

May 2016: A Gift for my Parents by Bee Nguyen

April 2016: The Ripple Effect by Breauna Hagen

March 2016: Lessons I’ve Learned Tutoring a Refugee by Ashley Hager

February 2016: For the Love of Humanity by Safia Jama

January 2016: 4D Service Learning at The Galloway School by Scotti Belfi

November and December 2015: A Case for Syrian Resettlement by Paedia Mixon

October 2015: Creating a Welcoming Atlanta Interview with Luisa Cardona

September 2015: Third-Annual Red, White and NEW Event Exceeds Fundraising and Advocacy Goals by Kelley Lugo

August 2015: Patti Garrett – August 2015 Food for Thought by Patti Garrett

July 2015: Engaging International Families in Parent Groups by Patti Ghezzi

June 2015: Reflecting on the Fourth of July by Kevin Abel

May 2015: Looking Back on Iraq by Whitney Kweskin

April 2015: All Hail Hall by Spencer Hall

March 2015: Honoring our Volunteers by Adriana Varela

February 2015: Celebrating New Americans by Charles Barnwell and Bob Glick

January 2015: What Refugees Leave Behind by Wendy Cheeks

December 2014: Welcoming Week in Atlanta by Emily Pelton

An affiliate of Church World Service and Episcopal Migration Ministries
Church World Services Episcopal Migration Ministries
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Suite 100
Atlanta, GA 30345
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