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. Clair Street.

 

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.

M. Merindy Carpenter

Director of Workplace English

mmcarpenter@immigrantwelcomecenter.org

As the Director of Workplace English, Merindy leads Immigrant Welcome Center’s efforts to expand on-site English language learning opportunities at Indianapolis area businesses in ways that benefit employees, employers, and our community.

 

Merindy was raised in Indianapolis and was inspired by watching her mother obtain a GED. Her mom completed a bachelor’s degree the same year Merindy graduated from Culver Academies. Merindy’s early work experiences in disaster recovery took her into thousands of homes throughout the US and deeply instilled the importance of adult basic education and workforce training. After spending years teaching adults, Merindy continues to help students overcome barriers to learning.

 

Merindy earned a BA in Anthropology from Indiana University and an MA in Teaching from Marian University. Her time spent studying, working, and traveling abroad has fostered her deep appreciation for the challenges of navigating life in another language. In addition to her professional interests in family literacy and educational equity, Merindy is passionate about sustainability, mindfulness, and civic participation. Merindy enjoys being in nature, making music, and exploring with her daughter and husband.

Parvinder Gulati

Community Navigator

pgulati@immigrantwelcomecenter.org

Parvinder was born and raised in New Delhi, India. His middle-class parents instilled in him the value of hard work and community service.  

As a Sikh, he believes in seva, selfless service performed without expectation of reward or personal gain. Seva means service, referring to selfless efforts for the community’s welfare (sarbat da bhala). Parvinder obtained his bachelor’s degree in commerce from Delhi University in 1997. He immigrated to the United States in 1998, and after experiencing life in New York City, he settled down in Indianapolis in 2012.  

Parvinder worked in the supply chain, logistics, and transportation, helping his customers and clients meet their business needs. In his professional experience, he has worked with people from different cultures, developing a deep appreciation of diversity in the community and workplace.  

Parvinder has been active in the Sikh community of Central Indiana, helping and volunteering at the Gurdwara (Sikh place of worship) and other community-building and cultural events.  

As a community navigator, Parvinder is committed to helping all individuals access the resources they need to heal and recover from the impact of the mass shooting in Indianapolis in April 2021. Parvinder speaks English, Punjabi, and Spanish. 

 

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.

Gurinder Kaur

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.

Professionally Gurinder trained as a physical therapist in India and arrived to work at Oakwood Hospital in Dearborn, Michigan in the early 1990s on an H1B visa. She fondly remembers the day her plane was preparing to land at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport, and she saw white clouds on the ground. As she stepped outside, the bitter cold Michigan winter wind hit her face and she realized that the white cloud on the ground was snow. Gurinder still is amazed by snow to this day.

Gurinder earned her post-professional master’s degree in physical therapy from the University of Indianapolis in 1995. In October 1999, Gurinder became a proud citizen of the United States of America. In 2001, Gurinder earned her master’s in public health from the Fairbanks School of Public Health. Since then, she has worked in leadership roles in public health, nonprofit, and most recently in higher education at the University of Indianapolis. Gurinder is the proud mother of two children. She enjoys walking on the canal towpath near the 100 Acre Woods, reading, and doing yoga.

In her role as the CEO of Immigrant Welcome Center, Gurinder focuses 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 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.

Gurinder serves on the board of the Indiana Public Health Association as well as WFYI’s Community Advisory Board.

Ginger Kosobucki

ELL Director

gkosobucki@immigrantwelcomecenter.org

A life-long language learner, Ginger appreciates the difficulties immigrants face in a culture whose dominant language is not their own. Her work focuses on creating more opportunities for English language learning for immigrants in their workplaces and communities. She has been a board member of INTESOL since November 2021. She is developing a program for immigrants with limited formal schooling and beginning literacy skills.

Ginger earned a BA in French from the University of Vermont and an MA in English (TESOL concentration) from Indiana University. She has lived in five different countries and has been a language teacher for over 20 years. While teaching international students, her interest in community work grew, and she became a volunteer with the Immigrant Welcome Center. In 2019, she led a research team to discover the barriers facing immigrants for learning English, and in 2020 she led the Pathway to Literacy team in developing curriculum, assessment, and classes for beginning learners. She believes that every immigrant deserves access to language learning to thrive in their new culture from their starting points. She agrees with her Eritrean student, who said, “Language is wealth.” Ginger enjoys walking, biking, discovering new places, and visiting family and friends.

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

    Treasurer

    Retired, Indianapolis Public Library

  • Ashley Overley, M.D.

    Ashley Overley, M.D.

    Secretary

    Chief Executive Officer, Sandra Eskenazi Mental Health Center

  • Celia Campbell

    Celia Campbell

    Commercial Banker, JP Morgan

  • Naomi Kwang

    Naomi Kwang

    Attorney, Barnes & Thornburg LLP

  • Angela Adams

    Angela Adams

    Attorney/Owner, Adams Immigration Law

  • Richard C. Miller

    Richard C. Miller

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

  • Linda Simba

    Linda Simba

    Clinical Labs & Data Sciences Advisor, Eli Lilly and Company

  • Lisa Sirkin Vielee

    Lisa Sirkin Vielee

    Owner & President, Well Done Marketing

  • Nida Ansari

    Nida Ansari

    Managing Director, The Heritage Group Accelerator

  • Mike Murphy

    Mike Murphy

    Senior Vice President, Hirons

  • Luisa Macer

    Luisa Macer

    Community Outreach & Fan Engagement Manager, Indianapolis Motor Speedway

  • Charles J. Garcia

    Charles J. Garcia

    President & CEO, C GARCIA ASSOCIATE, INC

  • Amy Minick Peterson

    Amy Minick Peterson

    Founder and Board Member Emerita
    Decorate

  • Dulce Vega

    Dulce Vega

    International Research and Programs, IUPUI Lilly School of Philanthropy 

  • Mario Rodriguez

    Mario Rodriguez

    Executive Director, Indianapolis Airport Authority

  • Leonard Hoops

    Leonard Hoops

    President & CEO, Visit Indy

  • Cheryan Jacob

    Cheryan Jacob

    Senior Vice President of Engineering, Salesforce