Meet Sai Lakshmi Balaji

Behind every great story, there is an inspiration that kicks it all off. The focus on these posts, personally, has been on education or lack thereof for new Americans. The story was inspired by Sai, a woman that works at Sam’s Club and was mentioned very early on in the first story. When I initially spoke with her, I had no idea how big of a piece she would have within the grand scheme of things. However, during our first meeting, she pointed out that a major problem with immigrants coming over to the U.S. was the lack of education they were getting in their home country or the fact that they were not getting proper education here, which led to dropping out of school. While some people can thrive and become successful without education, most need it and it is a very important aspect in ones life because it can lead to better opportunities and help build a stable future.  Continue reading

Diamond in Little Italy

Photos by Drew Patrick


There is no place that bring together cultures, races, genders, and ages quite like a good old-fashion Barbershop. Erie’s Little Italy, has one of the best. Sitting in the heart of Little Italy lies Ruiz Barber Shop.

Little Italy known today only by name, started falling out of favor as factories moved out and the initial Italian immigrants moved with them. Little Italy is working on improving  the area, with the help of grants given to the Sisters of Saint Joseph’s Neighborhood Network. Today the area has become a Multicultural Community.  In an area that deals with its fair share of blight,owner Cesar Ruiz and the Barber Shop has become a beacon of light.

Ruiz barbershop on W 18th street sees patrons of all ages and backgrounds. Conversations about Sports, Politics, family, you name it. With a talented and knowledgeable staff  it truly is a place that you can embrace your own unique style.


Check out the complete Ruiz Barber Shop Transformation:

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For more information on Ruiz Barbershop check out their Facebook Page. 



A New Hope



Where am I from? You might never know.

Overseas lays my heart, but yet here I must grow.

I can’t bear to remain in this place, yet I’m told for a living, this country has grace.

Will I thrive through the difference or create some resistance?

Will I try to fit in or will I die from within?

Because living so different, here, is a sin.

I can’t live on my own, I need help from loved ones.

But when I’m so far from my home…where are my loved ones?

I’ve heard from my family that there’s places that help.

But how can I go when I’m not feeling myself?

And by “myself,” I mean someone who’s “cool.”

Because we all know if you’re not popular, you’re a fool. Continue reading

Old songs provide new opportunities


A job training program for refugees isn’t something typically associated with an art museum.

“It’s not really an exhibit based program, but it fits in beautifully with our folk art program,” Kelly Armor, education and folk art director for the Erie Art Museum said.

The program focuses on living artists in the community.  While the museum does have a folk art collection, Old Songs New Opportunities (OSNO) is a unique extension the program.

The refugees who participate learn how to use songs from their own cultural background and other backgrounds with young children.  The songs are learned in both English and the native language.  Then, with instruction on how to use the songs in classrooms, those who participate in the three-month program can then take an internship.

Internships are set up through OSNO and are considered the final portion of the program.  They are held in educational centers, such as St. Martin Center early learning program and the Multicultural Resource Center (MCRC) childcare, with mostly three or four year-olds.

The ultimate goal of the program is find the participants permanent jobs following the internship.  For this reason, the program offers resume building workshops and interviewing advice as well. Continue reading

The Ultimate Labor of Love: The Hard Traveled Road to America

By Ed Auerbeck 

A common theme penetrated into the American mind, especially in that of the native-born worker concerning immigrants coming into this country for a more stable economic opportunity sometimes is: they’re coming to take our jobs.” While those that hold the opposition viewpoint might contend: “they’re doing the jobs most Americans won’t do.” But like so many other aspects of society and life, few debate’s can be broken down so easily into a catagorey of clear cut black and white, right and wrong.
Continue reading

The Fee for Freedom: The Hidden Struggles of Naturalization

By Karlee Dies, Becca Martin, Aaron Foster-Williams

The plight for immigrants fleeing their country doesn’t end once they arrive in America. It’s actually just beginning. There are many obstacles immigrants face in the process of assimilation, but there is one that stands out amongst the others. Aspiring citizens must pass a vigorous test to complete the process of naturalization. The test is the main barrier that separates every potential new American from becoming a citizen. The majority of the American population are natural-born citizens. Therefore, they are not required to pass any exam in order to become a citizen. This disparity between those who were born citizens and those looking to become citizens makes it difficult to understand the struggle of assimilation. Continue reading

Cultures Combined

“My first year and a half in America was a rollercoaster ride,” said Senada Alihodzic, who is now an American citizen. With help from the United States government, Alihodzic started a new life in Erie, Pennsylvania after she fled her war-ravaged Mediterranean hometown in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1993 and sought asylum on American soil. She arrived in this country without any knowledge of the area and unable to speak English, unable to communicate with anyone around her, unable to understand anyone trying to communicate with her. Alihodzic experienced a natural phenomenon of the human mind known as culture shock. Continue reading

English: The Only Language That Matters


“Pardon me?”  “What was that?”  “Please repeat yourself, I cannot understand you.”  Imagine hearing these phrases upon your arrival in a new and strange country.  Not only once or twice, but repeatedly.  Imagine being put in an emergency situation attempting to contact the proper authorities, but the phone operator cannot understand you.  And no matter how hard you try to explain the situation to the person on the other line, your frantic request for help isn’t met.  Continue reading

Finding a home

By: Tracy Geibel

Home.  It’s the one place where you can relax.  It’s the place you look forward to going at the end of a long day.

Now imagine you didn’t have your home, your safe haven.

People come to the United States for a variety of reasons, but in 2015, nearly 70,000 people moved to America to find a new home, one located thousands of miles from their native land.  They didn’t come because they wanted to, but rather because they had no choice to stay in their home country.

These people are refugees.  Continue reading