CNNC fosters community connections

Posted on September 02, 2022

UNCG Student Volunteers with children at the Center for New North Carolinians

UNC Greensboro’s Center for New North Carolinians (CNNC) promotes access and integration for immigrants and refugees in North Carolina by bridging newcomer populations with existing communities through direct service provision, research, and training.

“Per year, we see anywhere between 150-200 families needing services,” says Natacha Nikokeza, a Senior Program Coordinator for Community Centers at the CNNC. “They describe the services we provide as very essential, and they learn so much from being a part of our centers.”

These services – spanning the areas of employment and economic development, education, health, legal and social services – eliminate many of the barriers that prevent immigrant and refugee populations from thriving in new communities. They also empower these newcomers by giving them the tools they need to add value to their local community, which helps foster a greater sense of acceptance and advocacy amongst existing community members. 

Latino immigrants and those from Sudan make up two of the largest groups that the CNNC provides support to, with the third being refugees from places like Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, Nikokeza makes it clear that “we will help anyone who comes to our door,” and that services (except for off-site immigration services) are free of charge. “It’s very important for people to know we’re here and that we provide support programs,” she says, “and for them to know that there is someone to hold their hand and help figure out what they need.” 

Students Are Valuable Resources

UNCG Student Volunteer watching children playing at the Center for New North Carolinians
UNCG student volunteers playing with the children at a community center.

One way the CNNC works to expand their services and reach is by having volunteer coordinators visit campuses and classrooms to talk about the work they do and how it impacts people’s lives. They also discuss volunteer or internship opportunities that may be applicable to students’ fields of study. In addition, these coordinators have established relationships with department heads, in social work and education for example, who can help them identify students whose career goals align with the mission of the CNNC. 

Each semester, between 20-25 UNCG students join the CNNC program as volunteers, the majority of which come from the Lloyd International Honors College. These volunteers offer critical support to the CNNC, helping members with job searches and interview preparation, ESL classes, tutoring and after school programs for kids in K-12. 

Many students are motivated to get involved with the CNNC because of a strong interest in international culture and the invaluable perspective to be gained from working closely with immigrant and refugee populations. Others are looking for an opportunity to give back to the community while also enhancing a particular skill set needed for their desired career. 

Making a Difference at CNNC

Senior Miski Zuniga-Carrera, a Music Education Major, sitting in front of flowers at UNCG.
UNCG Senior Miski Zuniga-Carrera, a Music Education Major, sitting in front of the School of Music.

Miski Zuniga-Carrera, a senior at UNCG, is a music education major and spent the summer interning at one of the CNNC’s community centers. She was tasked with planning each day’s educational activities, tutoring children, and creating a curriculum for the summer Literacy Camp hosted by the center. “As a future educator, the act of planning and leading the children helped me step into my teacher identity more so than ever before,” she says. “Because of the pandemic, I was cheated out of possible field teaching positions, but having this opportunity enabled me to catch up on developing my leadership skills.” 

For students like Miski, making a profound difference in the lives of these new North Carolinians is the ultimate reward, but being able to learn from them at the same time makes for a truly incredible growth experience.  

UNCG Student Volunteers work with children at the Center for New North Carolinians

Learn more about CNNC

Follow CNNC on Instagram to stay up-to-date on news, events and volunteer opportunities.

Story by AMBCopy, University Communications
Photography provided by UNCG CNNC, Miski Zuniga-Carrera


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