Mentorship and networking are key aspects of any career field and can be especially helpful when relocating to another city. Relocating to another country is a lot more daunting. Global Cleveland’s new Global Rising program is designed to help immigrants create a solid foundation in their career trajectory through networking.
Launched in August 2020, Global Rising is a nine-month leadership development program created by Global Cleveland to assist immigrants, referred to in the program as newcomers, in learning to network and expand their social circles, become acclimated to the city and strengthen their economic opportunities.
Global Rising’s facilitator, Oren Baratz, feels this program serves as an economic booster for the city of Cleveland because it creates “a network of young immigrants and leaders and entrepreneurs; and also creates an environment where they can network with other leaders in Cleveland who have been here for years and are not immigrants,” he said. “I think this program will strengthen the community and the city; the idea behind Global Cleveland, based on research, is that immigrants are economic drivers in their communities.”
Global Cleveland, now in its 10th year, has been under the leadership of former councilman Joe Cimperman since 2016. The organization’s mission is to “attract, welcome, and connect international newcomers to economic, social, and educational opportunities in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County.”
According to Nancy Janis, Global Cleveland’s Vice President and COO, the organization has really taken off in the past few years, benefiting Cleveland’s immigrant community, which is on the rise. “In 2016, there were 2,500 immigrants who came to Cleveland. As of 2019, that number had risen to more than 4,000. The community is growing, largely due to word-of-mouth. People are now realizing, once they get here, how accessible and affordable Cleveland is; then they bring in their relatives, and a community grows, and I think it’s really exciting.”
Janis went on to say that there has been a substantial increase in the Congolese and Somalian communities here.
Global Rising’s inaugural class consists of 22 newcomers representing 15 countries including Albania, Burkina Faso, Colombia, Georgia, Ghana, Nepal, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, and Thailand. Monthly meetings including featured guest speakers such as government officials and corporate and community leaders. Each participant is paired with a mentor whose goal is to introduce them to five people. In return, each mentee must introduce the mentor to five people.
“We feel the mentorship aspect is a significant part of the program,” said Baratz. “Mentors were carefully chosen, and every quarter there will be a Mentors Meeting, where we discuss their experiences, and how we can learn and help each other as mentors and improve the mentoring component of the program.”
“We’re a connector for businesses to improve their inclusion,” added Janis, noting that while immigration is down significantly due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions, it is expected to bounce back up again. “We want our communities to grow and thrive and the only way that will happen is by having diversity, because diversity brings new ideas. Cleveland may be losing population, but we’re gaining immigrants.”
The Land recently caught up with four members of Global Rising’s inaugural class, who offered their experiences with the program.
Anusha Kandel is a native of Nepal who arrived in Cleveland in 2015. She attended Cleveland State University where she received her bachelor’s degree in 2019. She is currently an IT Analyst for Sherwin Williams.
“My journey has been pretty rewarding so far. And with this program, it’s getting even better,” said Kandel.
Kandel was made aware of the Global Rising program by a friend who works for Global Cleveland. The premise piqued her interest: a leadership program where she would learn from mentors, so she signed up.
“Since this program started, I have already met four people, and they have helped me connect with their networks, which has been rewarding for me and my career plans, as well.”
Although Kandel is still mapping out her long-term goals, she’s pretty sure they will involve healthcare. She informed her mentor, Tania Menesse, CEO of Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, of her aspirations and Menesse has been very helpful in expanding Kandel’s network. She also recently joined a women’s networking group on Facebook thanks to another speaker.
Elodie Nonguierma is originally from Burkina Faso, West Africa and has been in Cleveland since 2012. She attended Baldwin-Wallace University where she received her bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and master’s in Public Health. She is currently a Health Education Coordinator in the Center for Reducing Health Disparity at MetroHealth.
Nonguierma was made aware of Global Rising by one of her mentors, who thought the program would be a great networking environment for her. “I did not make a lot of friends while in school because I focused on studying,” she said.
Working in the healthcare field, Nonguierma’s interaction with patients she’s unfamiliar with has made her keenly aware of the hesitancy for some to be forthcoming with personal information, but she refers to her Global Rising mentor as a godsend. “We clicked right away. My first meeting with her was via Zoom, which lasted about 90 minutes – but was initially scheduled for 30 minutes. I feel very comfortable telling her anything about my life.”
Newcomers have the option to change mentors if they don’t feel a connection.
“My mentor asked me if there was someone specific that I wanted to meet. I didn’t come in with high expectations; if I came away with one new friend, I would be satisfied. She had a list of people in mind, but asked me to give her some ideas, and I told her it didn’t matter to me because I like surprises. Even this conversation I’m having with you, my circle has grown by one, and that was made possible through Global Rising.”
Samuel Paredes came to the United States from Colombia, South America when he was 16. After spending the first year with his host family, he changed his visa to an International Student Visa to complete high school and attend college. He currently attends Cuyahoga Community College where he is studying Cybersecurity.
One of Paredes’ mentors is an acquaintance of Janis. Paredes received an email from Janis asking if he would be interested in participating in the Global Rising program.
“My experience with the program so far has been great,” said Paredes. “My mentor, Patrick, has been very helpful and we have similar backgrounds; he’s also from Colombia – Cartagena. We communicate a lot through email, and we have met in person. I really appreciate his career advice, telling me not to limit my networking to Cleveland, to expand to other states. The cybersecurity field is really booming right now, so he’s been advising me to get in touch with different kinds of people as much as possible.”
Paredes doesn’t feel he’s connecting with the community as much as he’d like, but that’s due to the COVID-19 restrictions; the inability to interact in person detracts from the overall experience.
“I think the program will work much better if people have the chance to meet in person. Even if they are using all the restrictions in place for the pandemic, I think it will be more effective for both the mentors and mentees,” said Paredes.
Nathanie Yaskey is originally from Sierra Leone and has resided in the United States since 1997. She is one of three children.
Her mother attended Mt. Union College for her undergraduate studies. The professor of her Africana studies class was also from Sierra Leone, and he was aware of the country’s turmoil. He assisted the family to safety, and they lived with him and his family for two years.
Yaskey was raised in Shaker Heights, and attended NYU for undergrad, where she majored in Dramatic Writing and minored in Race, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Business in Media Entertainment and Technology.
“My passion is storytelling,” she said.
Yaskey is unsure how she got connected with Global Rising, but there’s a strong possibility it’s due to her visibility in the community. “I am very involved. If you have been to any protests around town, chances are I have been there.”
She can’t say enough positive things about her mentor, Lisa, who is Ethiopian. “My mentor is incredible, and I love that I’ve been paired with her. She thinks very strategically, which is really helpful for me, because I tend to think with my emotions.”
Yaskey, like Kandel, credits Oren Baratz for his devotion to mentoring. He arranged one-on-one appointments with each of the newcomers to become more familiar with them. “I ended up having a second mentor in Oren.”
Although Yaskey spent most of her youth in Cleveland, she says the program has helped immensely in her becoming more connected with the community. “For many years I was very angsty about being here, but getting involved with Global Rising and seeing that I can actually create change, that’s been really rewarding for me.”
Interested in getting involved? Throughout the year, Global Cleveland hosts a number of events. The International Student Pitch Contest is scheduled for March 5, 2021. There’s also the Global Employer Summit in May, and the Student Welcoming Event in September. The event year culminates with the Sister Cities Conference, involving 24 cities around the world. The 2019 Conference attracted 300 participants; in 2020, the virtual Conference drew a crowd of nearly 1,200.
Born and raised in East Cleveland, Nate Paige has contributed more than 25 years to local journalism. He got his professional start at the Cleveland Call & Post and would later get his foot in the door at Cleveland.com as a copy editor. While there, he held a number of positions including entertainment reporter, community editor, hyperlocal producer, and social media coordinator. He currently handles social media for the city of Shaker Heights.