Immigrant kids adapt to Akron life with support from ASIA Inc.

by Zaïré Talon Daniels

As a child, it’s hard enough to manage classwork, after school activities, and making new friends; Imagine if you and your family were uprooted and moved to a completely new country due to natural or man-made disasters. Asian Services in Action, Inc. and its program ICEP, the International Community Empowerment Program, has been helping children who find themselves in this difficult situation for the past 25 years.

ASIA Inc. has helped many different members of Akron’s international community but was initially formed to aid children and families of Asian and Pacific Islander descent as they found that there were few programs for these members of the community when relocated to the Akron area. New refugees and immigrants have since arrived in the area and ASIA Inc. has reached out to help with after-school programs that inspire learning and also help to acclimate children to American school life. 

Kelly Le, the Manager of Youth and Family Services, explained that academics is a very important aspect of ICEP’s mission. But there’s more to it than that. “We often forget that these children are coming to a completely new culture. Trying to navigate street signs, traffic lights, safety in their neighborhoods, gun violence — it absolutely affects them and creates this trauma where they don’t know where their resources are.” 

In addition, children of refugees often have to take on the added responsibility of being a translator between their parents and various institutions, such as medical providers, social security offices and insurance agencies. “Supporting the youth in the community, making sure they have access to our resources and providing a safe space for them” are the top concerns of the ICEP programs, Kelly says.

The ICEP program has partnered with the Summit Education Initiative in order to log and track the academic success of their students. Research shows that students who participate in the programs have good attendance and increase their grade point averages throughout the year. Programs are also available in the summer to help those who are struggling with English as a second language. 

Once students graduate high school, more opportunities are opened for them as well. Le explains that she enrolled in the ICEP program at a young age, and that many participants return to become leaders and mentors for the next round of students that enter into the program.

If you’d like to give back to the community and help ASIA Inc. volunteers, tutors, and mentors are always welcome. To find more information contact Kelly Le at, 330-535-3263 ext. 5309.

Zaïré Talon Daniels is a senior at the University of Akron studying anthropology.

Photos used with permission from ASIA Inc.