About Us

Immigrant Welcome Center

Our History

In 2005, former First Lady of Indianapolis Amy Minick Peterson led a study to determine how immigrant newcomers’ needs were being met in Central Indiana. Together with members of the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee (GIPC), chaired by community leader Yvonne Shaheen, Mrs. Peterson researched various immigrant populations and their needs, facilitated focus groups with service providers, and studied best practices in other cities for assisting immigrants and refugees.

By 2006 Immigrant Welcome Center, as it is known today, was established with the help of 12 volunteers known as Natural Helpers. One year later, an executive director was hired, and by January 2008, IWC moved its office into the John H. Boner Community Center.

After expanding, in 2015, IWC relocated to Fountain Square, where resided on the third floor of the Southeast Community Services Center. In May 2021, Immigrant Welcome Center moved to the main branch of the Indianapolis Public Library located on 40 E. St. Clare St.

 

Mission + Vision + Values

Mission + Vision + Values

Our Mission

To be a trusted partner and advocate for all immigrants.

Our Vision

Every immigrant in Indiana is thriving.

Values

Equity • Accountability • Collaboration • Trust

Our Team

Adejoke Awolusi

Legal & Naturalization Services Coordinator

aawolusi@immigrantwelcomecenter.org

When a client calls Immigrant Welcome Center, the first person they speak to will be Adejoke Awolusi. As the center’s Legal & Naturalization Services Coordinator, Adejoke serves as the initial point of contact and provides referrals and resources to clients. She also helps facilitate the Cultural Humility Workshops and helps the center’s Department of Justice representative with her appointments and paperwork. Adejoke stays busy each day but she wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s important to her to serve as someone who immigrants can relate to – someone who has been through the process herself.

When Adejoke first moved to the United States from Nigeria, finding the information she needed was challenging. A few years ago, she decided to apply to become a Natural Helper for Immigrant Welcome Center. As a volunteer, she began her journey in connecting with and supporting other immigrants.

With her fun-loving, playful nature, Adejoke is a friendly face for immigrants to find when they visit the center. When she’s not working, she stays busy with her kids and enjoys relaxing with a good Netflix drama series.

Christina Arrom, J.D.

Director of Programs and Operations

carrom@immigrantwelcomecenter.org

Christina Arrom is a first generation Cuban-American lawyer that uses her expertise to serve her community. She has experience working with nonprofits to build capacity, advocate for equality, and drive impact. Christina has directly served diverse populations facing housing insecurity and immigration challenges. In addition to direct services, she has helped organizations develop internal processes and structures to enhance their efficiencies and effectiveness. In her current role as Director of Programs and Operations, she leads program design, implementation, and evaluation. Furthermore, she develops organizational processes and systems to support our work. Christina is a graduate of Saint Louis University School of Law, and in her free time she enjoys volunteering, spending time with her husband, and spoiling her dog.

Qais Faqiri

Manager of Marketing and Communication

qfaqiri@immigrantwelcomecenter.org

Qais Faqiri was born and raised in Kabul, Afghanistan. He first became a refugee in Pakistan when the Taliban took over Afghanistan in 1996. Upon return to Afghanistan in 2001, he joined Doctors Without Borders where he helped bring healthcare to rural areas. After a stint as a reporter for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), he joined the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) promoting culture sensitive communication between residents of northern Afghanistan and NATO forces.

Qais came to the United States as a Fulbright Scholar in 2007 to study journalism at Ball State University. Upon graduation, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps as a civilian helping train Marines about Afghanistan, its people and its culture along with basic Farsi Dari and Pashto language training. He then joined the Voice of America in Washington where he covered Afghanistan news and hosted political talk shows. He deployed with the U.S. Army to Afghanistan as a linguist and cultural advisor where he helped transition the command of the detention center to Afghanistan authorities.

Qais returned to Ball State in 2013 and earned his master’s degree in political science in 2014. He returned to Afghanistan to work as a peacebuilder. He then joined the U.S. Agency for International Development’s support to higher education and managed university partnerships between Afghanistan and American universities. He was the Director of Cultural Affairs at the Kabul Municipality before the fall of Kabul to the Taliban in August 2021.

In his position of Manager of Marketing and Communication he is committed to promoting acceptance of refugees and immigrants by telling their stories. He helps raise awareness about the challenges that refugees and immigrants face in Indiana. He believes Indianapolis is a great city to live and immigrants enrich life for all Hoosiers.

Emily Jones

Development Director

ejones@immigrantwelcomecenter.org

Emily Jones is passionate about preserving and protecting the inherent human dignity of her immigrant friends and neighbors. She is a strong advocate of social justice and racial reconciliation and as such is thrilled to join Immigrant Welcome Center team! As the Development Director, Emily focuses on sustaining the vital work being done to help refugees and immigrants in Indianapolis. She places great emphasis on building relationships with all IWC’s supporters – donors, community members, partners, volunteers, Board members, and staff – and maintaining transparency with the public about the activities, outcomes, and impact of the organization.

Emily is an alum of IUPUI and the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, where she completed both her Bachelor and Master of Arts in Philanthropic Studies. During her education, she also participated in a graduate assistantship with the IU School of Medicine Office of Gift Development and completed part-time work and volunteer projects with several other local nonprofit organizations.

When she isn’t elbows deep in data or writing a grant proposal, Emily enjoys getting out and trying something new! She loves to travel, try new foods, listen to new music, play games, and spend time with friends and family doing just about anything.

Gurinder Hohl

Chief Executive Officer

ghohl@immigrantwelcomecenter.org

Gurinder is a servant leader, compassionate advocate for equity, and champion for social justice.

Gurinder was born and brought up in New Delhi, India. Her formative years were influenced by her middle-class working parents—both teachers. As a Sikh, Gurinder learned the principles of Seva which means selfless service for altruistic purposes on behalf of, and for the betterment of a community, early in her life. Gurinder endeavors to make an impact on the lives of those who need it most through her service on the boards of local nonprofits and by working in the community gardens to provide fresh produce to food-insecure neighbors in south Indy.

In her role as the CEO of Immigrant Welcome Center, Gurinder will focus on initiatives to increase community-wide awareness of the rich cultural and ethnic diversity that our new immigrant and refugee neighbors bring to the City of Indianapolis. She is also excited to work with the board and key stakeholders to clearly describe the impact of barriers and challenges that our new neighbors face and work with policymakers to identify and implement innovative solutions to address these challenges.

Ginger Kosobucki

ELL Director

gkosobucki@immigrantwelcomecenter.org

Ginger Kosobucki is a TESOL instructor in Indianapolis. A native of Massachusetts, she earned her BA in French at the University of Vermont and completed her MA in English with TESOL Concentration at IUPUI. Ginger has lived in Norway, France, Bolivia, and Poland, and has taught for over 20 years in various contexts, both overseas and in the U.S. She is Immigrant Welcome Center’s new ELL Director and leads the BELL program. Prior to this, she served as IWC’s English Language Learning consultant and has helped create a city-wide ESL Map, and led an immigrant research project in 2018/2019. Ginger facilitated professional development opportunities for teachers of limited-literacy adult learners in the form of Study Circles and 2-day training. She enjoys teamwork, travel, teaching, and taking walks.

Graham Melendez

Community Impact Coordinator

gmelendez@immigrantwelcomecenter.org

Graham Melendez is inspired by powerful motivation to make life better for immigrants in Indianapolis.  As the Community Impact Coordinator, his priorities include building relationships with community partners. These partners then become resources for immigrants – resources to better navigate a smooth transition into their Indianapolis communities.  When Graham decided to become a Natural Helper volunteer for IWC in 2017, he did so in order to help people. In turn, this experience provided him the skills needed for him to step into his permanent role at the center.

Graham moved to the United States from Peru when he was eight-years-old.  His experience has promoted an acute awareness of the unique journey and circumstances for immigrant children, and he notes that there is an admirable resiliency to immigrant children.

Graham takes breaks from work by doing what his family has always done for celebrations and as a way to express themselves – he goes dancing.  Whether it’s country-line dancing or salsa dancing, he says it’s rare to see someone unhappy while taking part. Graham’s motivation stems from seeing people happy – both inside and out of Immigrant Welcome Center.

Joanna Lopez

Natural Helper Coordinator

jlopez@immigrantwelcomecenter.org

Joanna Garzes Lopez is our new Natural Helper coordinator. She is passionate about using her skills, experience, and knowledge to help underrepresented people. She has over 10 years of experience doing grassroots work and highly encourages a culture of collectiveness to bridge gaps in the community.

Most of her work has been based in Washington state, where she assisted the undocumented community and worked with the juvenile justice and education systems. She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and hopes to further her education in immigration law.

Joanna is excited to learn more in her role at Immigrant Welcome Center and hopes that sharing her experiences will allow her to better serve our immigrant communities.

Kayla Bledsoe

Manager of Policy and Resource Initiatives

kbledsoe@immigrantwelcomecenter.org

Being able to vote for the first time in the election of 2016 raised Kayla’s awareness of the negative rhetoric against immigrants at the local and national levels. It was at this time she was also introduced to community organizing in Indianapolis where she became close with Spanish-speaking people, leading her to commit to learning the language herself.

As the Manager of Policy and Resource Initiatives, she leads the detailed research and analysis of the information and resources available in Indianapolis, keeping in mind barriers that immigrants often face when trying to obtain assistance. She works collaboratively with Natural Helpers, partners, and IWC team.

Kayla is a recent graduate of Marian University and Public Allies. In her free time, Kayla is usually canvassing for Faith in Indiana, supporting local businesses, and playing card games.

Mistie Cisneros

Housing Resource Coordinator

mcisneros@immigrantwelcomecenter.org

Mistie Cisneros is passionate about assisting and connecting the immigrant and refugee community to the resources they need. As an immigrant and first-generation college graduate herself, she understands the obstacles newcomers and minorities face every day and looks forward to being able to connect with community members with compassion. Her role as the Housing Resource Coordinator at Immigrant Welcome Center allows Mistie to help bridge the gap between immigrants and affordable housing resources offered in the city of Indianapolis. As a fierce advocate for social justice, she strongly believes everyone deserves equitable and sustainable housing as a base for socioeconomic equality.

Mistie is a recent alum of IUPUI where she completed her Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies. She looks forward to using her strong networking and communication skills to connect with community members, landlords, and program leaders to work on ways to help develop resources.

When she isn’t busy connecting the immigrant and refugee community with resources, Mistie enjoys spending time with her husband and their close friends. She and her husband enjoy traveling and camping in their free time.

Our Board

  • Neelay Bhatt

    Neelay Bhatt

    Chair
    Principal, PROS Consulting, Inc.

  • M. Jaqueline Nytes

    M. Jaqueline Nytes

    Vice Chair
    CEO, Indianapolis Public Library

  • Celia Campbell

    Celia Campbell

    Secretary
    Commerical Banker, JP Morgan

  • Naomi Kwang

    Naomi Kwang

    Treasurer
    Attorney, Barnes & Thornburg LLP

  • Angela Adams

    Angela Adams

    Attorney/Owner, Adams Immigration Law

  • Sandro Franchi

    Sandro Franchi

    (Former) Senior Global Director of Leadership Recruiting, Eli Lilly and Company

  • Kim Gattle

    Kim Gattle

    Retired, Newfields: A Place for Art and Nature

  • Arwa Ghalawan

    Arwa Ghalawan

    Diversity and Inclusion Lead, Infosys

  • Cheryan Jacob

    Cheryan Jacob

    Senior Vice President of Engineering, Salesforce

  • Richard C. Miller

    Richard C. Miller

    President/CEO (retired), E.D. Bullard Company

  • Mike Murphy

    Mike Murphy

    Senior Vice President, Hirons

  • Ashley Overley, M.D.

    Ashley Overley, M.D.

    Chief Executive Officer, Sandra Eskenazi Mental Health Center

  • Amy Minick Peterson

    Amy Minick Peterson

    IWC Founder
    Decorate

  • Mario Rodriguez

    Mario Rodriguez

    Executive Director, Indianapolis Airport Authority

  • Linda Simba

    Linda Simba

    Clinical Labs & Data Sciences Advisor, Eli Lilly and Company

  • Dulce Vega

    Dulce Vega

    International Research and Programs, IUPUI Lilly School of Philanthropy