We are adding new speakers all the time. Check back often!
- Dr. Katherine Loflin
- Tim Lampkin
- The Poetry Gods
- Nexus Community Partners
- Ariella Cohen
- Dr. Wornie Reed
- Sarah Obenauer
- Valerie Warren
- Rev. William Lee
- Maureen Brondyke
- Josh McManus
- Dr. Bruce Hull
- Jeff Julian
- Vanessa Guerra
- Dr. Gregory Rosenthal
- Stephanie Fallon
- Dr. Liz Ackley
- Doug Jackson
- Ian Fortier
- Dr. Elda Stanco Downey
- Claire Hitchins
- Elvir Berbi & Dadhi Dangal
The Power of Place: The Most Transformational Idea You’ve Probably Never Heard
Nothing affects every aspect of our lives more than where we live. In fact, finding the right place to live is as important (and quite similar) to the journey of finding our perfect partner. Innovative place science is providing key new insights, while being supportive of long-standing research that we as humans need certain connections with our environment to reach our true potential. In turn, places are inherently dependent on the people within them to survive. We now know the key ingredients of the Great Place and how to harness the Power of Place to help people and places thrive. Yet, that information is not widely known and certainly not applied in our work and personal lives. This session will change all that and probably forever change the way you think about your work, and your life.
Dr. Katherine Loflin is an award-winning, internationally-recognized trailblazer in the science of quality of life places and why they matter, earning her the moniker of The City Doctor. She is principal of her own global consulting practice celebrating 10 years in service, two-time TEDx talker, author, public speaking coach, and widely-featured expert in the US and international press.
Dr. Loflin has held leadership and advisory roles in some of the most groundbreaking and innovative place-focused projects in the world. She was awarded the international Place Marketing Award and was named the Guest of Honor and Master Class Instructor in 2014 by the Place Marketing Forum in France. She is an invited member of the global Placemaking Leadership Council and keynoted its inaugural event and subsequent events in Stockholm, Sweden and Adelaide, Australia.
Dr. Loflin created and hosted the first radio show dedicated to the topic of place, Place Matters with Dr. Katherine Loflin, which was honored by The Atlantic for its innovation and quality. She is also the author of “Place Match: The City Doctor’s Guide to Finding Where You Belong,” available at www.city-doctor.com and Amazon.
Tim Lampkin is the CEO of Higher Purpose Co. a nonprofit social impact agency based in the Mississippi Delta helping underserved communities thrive by providing education, access to capital, mentorship, and business support services to entrepreneurs. Tim is the Co-Founder of Capway with Mississippi native Sheena Allen. This company provides financial services to unbanked and underbanked populations. Lampkin also serves as the Outreach Coordinator at the Mississippi Humanities Council. He primarily oversees the Racial Equity Fund supported by a $250,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to work with organizations across Mississippi to foster dialogue about race in their community. Tim is also the producer of the Dynamic Delta Leaders project in conjunction with the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area and the Center for Rural Strategies.
Tim previously worked as a Community Development Officer for Southern Bancorp, a Community Development Financial Institution. He helped secure a million dollars for various community projects in Coahoma County within two years. Prior to his role at SBCP, he worked as a consultant with the DEBTS Program funded by the USDA at Delta State University. He provided technical assistance to entrepreneurs and nonprofits in four counties in the Mississippi Delta. Lampkin has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Mississippi Valley State University, a Masters of Science in Business Administration from Delta State University, and a Masters of Science in Organizational Performance from Bellevue University. Lampkin is currently completing his Doctorate of Education from the University of Arkansas.
Some of his affiliations include the Social Enterprise Alliance, Community Development Society, National Black MBA Association Inc., Mississippi Public Health Association, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Christian Community Development Association, Placemaking Leadership Council, Next Generation National Advisory Board, and the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Community Development Advisory Council. He was invited by the Obama Administration to share his knowledge with national stakeholders at the White House Rural Council meetings. Tim was included on the 2016 32 under 32 list by Magic Johnson’s Playbook, and has been featured by the Daily Yonder, Dakota Fire, and the Huffington Post.
Building more Engaged and Powerful Communities of Color:
Throughout its 13-year history, Nexus Community Partners has been dedicated to building more engaged and powerful communities of color in the Twin Cities and beyond. The key to this work lies in the interconnectedness between authorship, leadership and ownership. Come learn how Nexus is engaging communities to ensure they have authorship of their lives and their future; how they are strengthening the leadership of individuals to represent their communities at multiple tables; and how they are building an infrastructure to support alternative economic development models so people can own the wealth they have helped to generate.
Elena Gaarder is a Program Officer for Nexus Community Partners and has 20+ years of experience in community and economic development, affordable housing, program and organizational development; comprehensive planning and systems change efforts. She was awarded a Bush Foundation Leadership Fellowship in 2015 to deepen her knowledge and practice of community wealth building and cooperative economics. She has an undergraduate degree in Urban Planning from St. Cloud State University and a Graduate Degree in Community Economic Development from Southern New Hampshire University.
Terri Thao is a Program Director at Nexus Community Partners, where she runs the Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI). Terri is an active community volunteer, serving on the boards of the Asian Economic Development Association, East Side Neighborhood Development Company, the F.R. Bigelow Foundation, MN Housing, the St. Paul Planning Commission, and Voices for Racial Justice. She obtained her Bachelors’ and Masters’ degrees from the University of Minnesota.
Avi Viswanathan is a Program Director at Nexus Community Partners, where he runs the Community Engagement Institute (CEI). Avi brings cross-sector experience having served in the Office of Senator Al Franken, as Ron McKinley Philanthropy Fellow at the Bush Foundation, and in several other capacities at non-profits in the Twin Cities. Avi also has extensive work in the community having served as President of the Dayton’s Bluff Community Council in Saint Paul as well as on the Saint Paul Neighborhood STAR Board and the Capital Improvement Board. Avi obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from Georgia Tech as well as his JD from Suffolk University.
Why Detroit Just Hired a Chief Storyteller and Other Secrets of Urban Reporting
Narrative powers place and in 2017, that has never been more true. At a time when local newspapers are floundering, it’s essential that cities like Roanoke have platforms to tell their story and more importantly, know how to use them. In an interactive format, we will explore how small and mid-sized cities can use journalism and social media as an economic and cultural development tool.
Ariella Cohen is an award-winning journalist with more than a decade of experience reporting on urban change, politics and policy. Prior to joining Next City, she co-founded New Orleans’ first online investigative news outlet, The Lens, and worked as a staff reporter for the Brooklyn Paper in New York. She has reported on disaster recovery, urban development and city politics in Port au Prince, Jerusalem and in cities across the U.S. She prefers the bus. Follow her on Twitter @ariellacohen.
A Framework for Addressing Pervasive Racial Disparities
This presentation will critique the dominant consensus on race and how it gives rise to social and institutional dynamics that lead to racial disparities. It will then present systemic racism framework as an analytic tool to address issues of racial discrimination.
Wornie Reed obtained his Ph.D. in Sociology at Boston University. Currently, he is Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies and Director of the Race and Social Policy Research Center at Virginia Tech University. Previously, he developed and directed social science research centers at three universities, including the William Monroe Trotter Institute at UMass/Boston. Among his scholarly accomplishments, Reed directed the project, “Assessment of the Status of African Americans,” which involved 61 scholars and resulted in the production of a four-volume work published by Auburn House Publishers. He is past president of the National Congress of Black Faculty (1990-1993) and the Association of Black Sociologists (2000-2001). Currently, he is a member of the Steering Committee of the Montgomery County Dialogue on Race Project.
Building Communities with Design
Design captures attention, evokes emotion and tells a story. It also bridges communities, builds new connections and expands worldviews. Sarah will discuss what she has learned about community engagement and design equity from founding Make a Mark, an organization that brings together humanitarian causes and nonprofits with designers, developers and other creatives for the greater good of a community.
“Graphic design shouldn’t just be for those that can afford it.” -Aaron Draplin
Sarah Obenauer is the Founder & Director of Make a Mark, an organization created to provide resources and foster an environment where community organizations and visual communicators can engage with one another to better our world. Make a Mark’s flagship event is a 12-hour design and development marathon benefiting humanitarian causes and is currently being held in five different cities on the east coast.
After graduating from Virginia Tech with a degree in Communications, Sarah started her career at YOVASO, a traffic safety nonprofit in Roanoke serving the Commonwealth’s youth. Since then she has been actively engaged in the nonprofit community, serving on various boards. She also leads trainings, courses, roundtables and consults with nonprofits to set their marketing, design and communication strategies.
Participatory Budgeting: Community Capacity Building for Change
Participatory Budgeting (PB) is a democratic process that gives ordinary people direct control over a portion of a public budget. It empowers residents, engages them in finding solutions, and knits communities together. Since first implemented in Porto Alegre Brazil in 1989, PB has spread to over 3,000 cities around the world, and has been used in counties, states, housing authorities, schools, universities and other institutions. The Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP) has worked with elected officials and community partners in 17 cities to support PB processes that engage over 300,000 people in deciding how to spend $238,000,000 on projects that benefit their communities.
PBP’s Valerie Warren will speak to how participatory budgeting processes can act as capacity generators in communities and the critical potential for PB in this moment to support emergent leadership.
Valerie supports the development of participatory budgeting processes in the South. As a community organizer, facilitator, and strategist with more than two decades of experience, she has been involved in a variety of campaigns and projects to address issues of racial, economic, gender and environmental justice while building community power. In her professional life she has acted as a project manager in a variety of settings including refugee resettlement, supply chain management, purchasing, sales, marketing, and publishing. She has never met a project she wasn’t curious about or an issue she didn’t want to understand and explore. When she is not plotting and scheming about making a better world, she loves to spend time with her partner, two kids and magnificent cats, go for a run, or engage in the fine art of porch sitting with friends.
The Intersection of Temple and Town
I have been reflecting on our vacation two years ago in Tuscany, Italy. In my notes I reference how the church was the center of all the towns and cities we visited. One guide informed us that the church was built first and the town was built around it. I would imagine that configuration help the citizen’s to some degree maintain a moral compass as they went about their daily lives.
My friend and colleague, Rev. Dr. William Barber is calling the nation to regain her moral compass. In my presentation, I hope to engage participants to once again find the intersection of Temple and Town. An entrepreneur spirit, a world moving at warp speed with technology needs the intersection of Temple and Town more than ever.
William Lee is the second child of the late Leon and Thelma Lee of Nuttsville, Virginia. William is married to the former Dana Barnes for 41 years and they are the proud parents of two adult children, Aaron Michael (wife Nina) and Sarah Barnes Williams (husband Marcus).
William received his Bachelors of Science degree in Special Education from Virginia State University with honors (Cum Laude) in 1974, his Masters of Divinity from the Divinity School at Duke University in 1978 and his Doctorate of Ministry Degree from Ashland Theological Seminary in June 2009.
William is a member of the Virginia Western Community College’s Grants and Scholarship Committee and a member of the Advisory Board for BB&T. He is a founding member of Healthy Roanoke Valley.
William serves a member of the Board of Trustees of Lexington Theological Seminary, the Black Endowment Fund of the Christian Church and the Greenwood Cemetery, Nashville, Tenn. William also serves on the Duke Divinity School’s Board of Visitors. He is the Director of the African American Clergy Leadership Development Program.
William is the founder of New Horizon Health Care, a Federally Qualified Health Care Center and serves on the Board of Directors. In November of 2009, the Board of Directors of New Horizon Health Care honored William by naming the educational wing The Rev. Dr. William L. Lee Educational Center.
William is a Paul Harris Fellow with the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International and has received the Faithful Servant of the Year Award presented by the Disciples of Christ Historical Society for his faithful service to the Christian Church in the United States and Canada.
William served as Moderator of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada from 2005-2007. The Roanoke City Council named the Rev. Dr. William L Lee as the citizen of the year for 2011.William has served with great pride and joy as the Pastor for 38 years of one of the cutting edge churches in America, the Loudon Avenue Christian Church.
Housing2Home – Exploring A Collaborative Approach to the Arts and Housing
Over 25% of the residents of Charlottesville live in poverty and over 500 families and individuals experience homelessness every year. Despite increased government support for housing and rental subsidies, many newly-housed members of our community express feelings of social isolation in their new homes and find it difficult to adjust to their new communities. This talk explores how the arts have been integrated into housing first initiatives with the hope of creating more stable housing situations through a creative placemaking collaboration between a community arts organization and The Haven, a multi-resource day shelter for those experiencing homelessness in Charlottesville, VA.
Maureen Brondyke, founding director of New City Arts Initiative in Charlottesville, VA, currently serves as the executive director (2010-present). As a community arts organization, New City Arts provides Charlottesville area artists with exhibit and studio space at its downtown location called Welcome Gallery; provides crowd-funded grants to area artists through Charlottesville SOUP; and creates opportunities for the community to collaborate and connect through a portfolio of creative programs. Unique to New City Arts is a long-term partnership with The Haven, a homeless shelter that leads housing-first initiatives in our community.
The Anthropocene: Where are We Heading?
We are accelerating towards the future: artificial intelligence, rapid urbanization, supercharged innovation, global connectivity, and billions pulling themselves out of poverty to join the middle class. Real obstacles to sustaining development exist. Between now and 2050 we must almost double food and energy consumption, perhaps more than double urban infrastructure, mitigate and adapt to climate change, transition from a linear to a circular economy, overcome mounting water stress, employ several million new workers a week, and manage widening inequity and the social unrest it causes. Some paths into the future lead to amazing opportunities; others lead to horrendous misery. This talk examines strategies for navigating the challenges and realizing the opportunities.
Dr. Hull is a professor in the College of Natural Resources and Environment at Virginia Tech who writes and teaches about leadership for sustainable development in the Anthropocene and how to influence change in the cross-sector space where government, business, and civil society intersect. He is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability based in Arlington Virginia, which provides graduate education, executive, and professional development opportunities for sustainability professionals. He is President of the Board of Climate Solutions University, whose mission is to help communities adapt to climate change. He also serves on the advisory council for VT’s Global Change Center and Center for Communicating Science. He has authored and edited numerous publications, including two books, Infinite Nature and Restoring Nature.
Libraries: Transforming Your Community
The American Library Association’s Libraries Transform public awareness and advocacy campaign effectively conveys the transformative nature of today’s libraries and the critical role they play in the digital age. Since 2015, more than 7,100 libraries and supporters have joined the effort using the campaign in a variety of ways, including to support a referendum campaign, advocate for state funding, and make an impact with students. Jeff Julian, director of the ALA’s public awareness office, will talk about how the Libraries Transform campaign’s messaging, strategy, and tools are resonating with libraries and the public on a local and national level.
Jeff Julian is the director of the Public Awareness Office for the American Library Association, which oversees the Libraries Transform public awareness and advocacy campaign, media relations, and crisis communications.
Julian previously served as the executive director of communications at Elgin (Ill.) Community College. In this position, he was responsible for leading strategic media and public relations programs, projects and campaigns to promote, enhance, and protect the image, reputation, and brand of Elgin Community College, a public community college serving approximately 12,000 students in a 360-square-mile district. Prior to joining the Elgin Community College staff, Julian served as the director of communications and external relations at Joliet (Ill.) Junior College.
Julian has a Master’s degree in English Studies from Elmhurst (Ill.) College and a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Communications from the University of St. Francis, Joliet, Ill. He is a member of the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, the National Council of Marketing and Public Relations, the Public Relations Society of America and holds a certification from the Crisis Leadership in Higher Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School.
Julian serves as co-chair of the Advisory Board of Directors of Girls Rock! Chicago, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering girls’ creative expression, positive self-esteem and community awareness through rock music.
Beyond Informality: A new approach to inclusive cities
As cities deal with the effects of climate change and population growth, informal practices have become more common over the years. Although these practices are often stereotyped as urban mistakes, acknowledging the potential of the informal sector, and paying attention to what we can learn from it, could lead to the start of a new approach to alleviate poverty, empower isolated communities, and promote sustainable development.
Vanessa is an architect and urban planner who is currently a researcher and doctoral student in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies at Virginia Tech. Her research interests include urban interventions (such as urban regeneration, public space, sustainable transport, slums clearance) as potential contributions to poverty reduction and sustainable development. She has presented her work in several conferences across the United States and South America, and has spoken at a TEDx event in Quito-Ecuador.
Prior to Virginia Tech, Vanessa worked as a project architect, participated with the University of Melbourne-Australia in the project “How Sustainable Transport Networks Build Great Cities” at Munich and Zurich, and taught at USFQ University in Quito-Ecuador, where she also coordinated the seminar “Ecuador towards Habitat III”. She is currently a member of the Global Forum for Urban Regional Resilience (GFURR), a member of the Regional Studies Association (RSA), and co-founder of LIGNUM, an architecture and urbanism firm in Ecuador.
Building Community through LGBTQ+ History
The Southwest Virginia LGBTQ+ History Project, founded in 2015, is a community-based history initiative committed to researching and telling the stories of LGBTQ+ individuals and organizations in our region. In this talk, Dr. Gregory Rosenthal describes how the work of the History Project creates new spaces for LGBTQ+ people in the Roanoke Valley to come together and cultivate multigenerational community
Dr. Gregory Rosenthal is Assistant Professor of Public History at Roanoke College. They are co-founder of the Southwest Virginia LGBTQ+ History Project.
“But I’m Not Creative” & Other Myths Busted at the Museum School
Stephanie Fallon wants to set the record straight: there is no magical, innate prerequisite needed for getting to hold a pair of scissors. Children do it all the time! But sit an adult down in front of a table set with a watercolor palette and watch them squirm. Even if it’s shiny! Even if it’s new! Even if it’s got their favorite colors and you provide candy and a glass of wine and the whole thing is free! There’s an entire contingency of adults who would rather relive high school debate or do mental math for a crowd. Over smushing around some paint!
What happens between Kindergarten and a professional life that convinces someone they need to be qualified to muck around with some clay? Determined that this is a surmountable barrier, Stephanie began a series of afternoon art workshops at the Taubman Museum of Art with the sole objective to create an environment where adults would feel comfortable playing. Believing whole heartedly that creativity isn’t a characteristic you’ve got or not, she began to build intentional spaces that encourage adults to play and discover creativity through artmaking.
After nearly a year, she was able to build the workshops out into a full museum school, offering classes that cover arts foundations & crafts all based on the fundamental belief that anyone can learn to be creative.
Stephanie Fallon is a Houston native who is very proud to have attended Beyonce’s alma mater, the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, where she majored in studio art. She has taught visual arts, art history, and art criticism to Kindergarten-adults in Houston, Baltimore, and Roanoke. Stephanie has been the Adult Education Manager at the Taubman Musuem of Art since November 2015.
Redrafting the Plot Line: Data as the Protagonist in Placemaking
If your “To-Do” list includes grandiose plans to change the world, it’s important to have a handle on the current state of affairs. Data can provide the essential context needed for developing innovative and impactful projects, establishing cross-sector partnerships, and inciting community-level change. Using the Roanoke Valley Community Healthy Living Index as a platform, we will consider how health disparities can illuminate inequities in neighborhood-level infrastructure and healthy living resources to set the stage for innovative placemaking. In this way, we can consider data as a catalyst rather than a destiny.
Dr. Liz Ackley is a fervent Roanoke enthusiast and community partner. An Associate Professor in Health and Exercise Science at Roanoke College, Liz devotes her time to serving as a committed bridge-builder between the research and service sectors in the Roanoke Valley. As director of the Roanoke Valley Community Healthy Living Index and team lead for the Roanoke City Invest Health Initiative, Liz works with area neighborhoods to better understand complex relationships between community-level infrastructure, perceptions of access to healthy living resources, and health outcomes. Liz is an avid runner, biker, and urban farmer, and is thankful to call Roanoke home.
Where the heck is BOOK CITY?
From the storied creative writing program at Hollins University to Star City Reads’ nationally recognized Campaign for Grade Level Reading, a wide range of assets contribute to the city’s bookish vibe. But who pulls it all together and to what effect? The emerging BOOK CITY ★Roanoke experiment is exploring if community identity might be strengthened from the essentially solitary activities of reading and writing, and if local models of publishing, bookselling, and placemaking might evolve in a BOOK CITY.
As a capacity development specialist for the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, Douglas Jackson learns alongside regional teams, downtown champions, and civic groups effecting change and fostering vibrancy in their corners of Virginia. A writer, reader, and Roanoke resident, he’s committing energy to aggregating and promoting the region’s literary and literacy efforts in BOOK CITY ★ Roanoke – a blog with a bias toward action.
The Grandin Theatre Film Lab – Community Connectivity through Experiential Student Filmmaking
Join Grandin Theatre Executive Director Ian Fortier as he shares the process, pitfalls, and positive outcomes of developing the Grandin Theatre Film Lab, a unique model for experiential student Filmmaking in the Roanoke Valley. Learn how this community based program not only works directly to help teenagers find their voice and creativity through the cinematic medium, but also the multiple ways in which the Lab serves the community that supports it.
Ian Fortier is the Executive Director of the Grandin Theatre Foundation. Prior to his arrival he served as the Director of Patron Services at the Jefferson Center for nearly 5 years. Ian has been a nonprofit professional for over 20 years. After earning his undergraduate degree in Geography from the University of Vermont. Ian cut his teeth in Washington, DC, working and volunteering for such organizations as the National Geographic Society, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, and the American Lung Association. He is an avid traveler, visiting over 47 countries and living in six of them.
Arriving in Southwest Virginia in 2007, Ian has been very active in community endeavors, including serving on the Roanoke Arts Commission’s Parks and Arts Committee, the Roanoke City Downtown Planning Advisory Committee, and is a Board Member of the Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op and the Grandin Village Business Association. Ian has also volunteered teaching veteran’s guitar lessons at the VA, and shuttling orphan dogs to new homes up and down I-81. He is also a Special Olympics coach.
Ian earned a Master’s Degree in Public Administration with a focus on nonprofit management from the James Madison University satellite program at the Roanoke Higher Education Center. In his spare time, Ian is an avid mountain biker, a commissioned stained glass artist, and the emotional and disruptive captain of his two-time defending champion Roanoke City Men’s Ice Hockey Team. He has a 11 year old black Labrador mix name Livvy, a 4 year old Shiz Tsu named Paul, a beautiful Bulgarian wife, Mariana, and their 9-year old, wide-eyed mischievous son Alex.
Pass Education Forward: The Hispanic College Institute
What would you have done if when you were 16 you were offered the opportunity to participate in a 4-day residential pre-college program for FREE? This is what The Hispanic College Institute (HCI) offers Latinx students across the Commonwealth of Virginia – the rare opportunity to learn about and prepare for college, with college faculty, students and higher ed professionals, for FREE. The program is based on research and input from Hispanic educators and community leaders, and much of the content is delivered by Hispanics who can relate to the students’ experiences and challenges. What’s the cool factor about the HCI? It’s run by college student volunteers who themselves participated in the HCI before enrolling in college. The HCI is about opening doors really wide and passing it forward – helping the next generation of Latinx college students in the same way we were helped on by our own previous generations.
Dr. Elda Stanco Downey is the Founder + CEO of Roanoke Spanish. Languages and communication are at her core – she was born in Venezuela and grew up trilingual, speaking Spanish and Italian at home, and English at the International school she began attending at age 4. Dr. Stanco Downey earned an Honors Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Romance Languages & Literatures at The University of Chicago. She holds an M.A. and a PhD in Hispanic Studies from Brown University, and has been a visiting scholar at the Universidad de Salamanca in Spain and at Harvard University.
Dr. Stanco Downey has over 16 years of experience working, living and traveling in domestic and international settings. She has been on the Faculty at Roanoke College, Hollins University and Brown University, and she is currently on the Faculty of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. Dr. Stanco Downey serves on the Board of Directors of the Roanoke Chamber of Commerce, the Board of the United Way of Roanoke Valley and the Board of Local Colors. Roanoke has been her happy home for 11 years. She squeezes time to catch up on urban novels and classic films, or to whip up perfect Italian dishes, whenever her very active bilingual children give her permission!
Claire Hitchins weaves a musical fabric that is at once spacious and intimate, enfolding and holding listeners in the warp and weft of her sincere, soulful folk melodies. Her homespun musical sensibility was fashioned among the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, formed as much by the deciduous forests and swimming holes of her home state as by the traditional songs of the American South. Since the release of her 2016 album These Bodies, Claire has enchanted audiences all over the country. Her nuanced voice glimmers among currents of guitar and banjo, illuminating the depth and clarity of her generous songwriting.
Elvir Berbic – I arrived to Roanoke, VA in 1995 at the age of 14 as a refugee from Bosnia and Herzegovina. The struggle to understand the language, make friends and assist my mother and father in their daily activities was common in the early years. I attended William Fleming High School and managed to complete my higher education goals at VWCC and Radford University, earning an M.S. in Communication in 2010. My younger brother completed his undergraduate degree at George Mason University and his medical degree at VCOM in Blacksburg, VA. I’ve been working in higher education since 2011. I also volunteer with local U19 and U17 refugee soccer club, with a mission to equip the younger refugee population with tools necessary to be active and productive members of the community. I want to give them leadership skills, mentoring, guidance and equitable educational opportunities. In summer of 2016 with the help of my colleagues I’ve founded Refugee Scholarship at VWCC. The scholarship has been awarded twice and I couldn’t be more proud of our welcoming community. Thanks to Ed Walker, the idea came about after my brief talk at the 2015 Xpo conference. I currently work in the Student Affairs at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and I assist students in their engagement with the immigrant and refugee populations.
Dadhi Dangal – My name is Dadhi Dangal, I was born in a small and isolated country in southeast Asia called Bhutan. I became refugee at the age of 7. I left my home before dawn on February 11, 1990. I have never been back home since then. I spent the next 18 years of my life in a refugee camp in eastern Nepal. Life was far from miserable in refugee camp. After living in hardship for almost 2 decades I came to Silver Spring MD on September 2, 2008. Moved to Roanoke in December 12, 2008.
My educational journey in this country started from GED. I than started taking classes at VWCC for Nursing. I graduated from VWCC as LPN in May 2015. Went back to school and got enrolled in the LPN to RN bridge program and graduated in May 2017. Currently I am a Registered Nurse at Lewis Gale Medical Center.
When I received the letter saying that I was selected to receive the $1,000 refugee annual scholarship, I felt like winning a mega million jackpot. I felt that way because of who I am and where I came from. I used every single penny of that award to buy my Nursing course books which were expensive. It was impossible for me to spend that amount of cash to buy books but Elvir made it possible. So I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Elvir and all of those who supported him to create and managed the refugee annual scholarship.
Refugees face a variety of challenges from language, finding job, adjusting to new culture, food, transportation, school and many more. Many of us get depressed and frustrated. For those of you who want to help refugees you can always contact local refugee resettlement office of CCC on Campbell ave. Refugees need help with finding job, adjusting to the new culture, learning English, shopping, with school, and many more.