The Look in Brief

My City Academy holds graduation for Nashville new Americans

By: - November 4, 2022 2:24 pm
Mayor John Cooper hands out a My City Academy diploma to Kosar Kosar. (Photo: Dulce Maria Torres Guzman)

Mayor John Cooper hands out a My City Academy diploma to Kosar Kosar. (Photo: Dulce Maria Torres Guzman)

Nashville Mayor John Cooper handed diplomas to graduates of the My City Academy on Thursday, saying the city needs more people that looked like them in government to reflect its diversity.

“You’re graduating into a job, and the job is communicating what the city can do,” said Cooper. 

Since 2012, Nashville has sought to create community leaders through the My City Academy, a program teaching immigrants and refugees about the inner workings of city infrastructure.  This year, 20 graduates from nine different countries spent nine months learning Nashville’s history, touring Metro departments and meeting with city officials, including Police Chief John Drake.   

“They get to network with the actual city leaders,” said Mohamed-Shukri Hassan, director of the Metro Nashville Office of New Americans. 

Cooper asked the graduating class what surprised them about the government.

“I am now more comfortable drinking tap water,” said Kosar Kosar, a second-generation immigrant from Somalia. 

Another graduate said knowledge of services available for domestic abuse victims will enable him to help his international students. 

“Most of the students that come are mostly females, females that come on their own. Sometimes they are scared. They get really bad depression or they just get taken advantage of,” said Vladimir Bentacur, who emigrated from Colombia and works as a coordinator for the Intensive English Center at Tennessee State University. 

City officials hope My City graduates will help bridge cultural and language barriers between their communities and the government by becoming leaders or working in Metro Nashville departments. 

“When they go back to the community, now they have actual relationships to work with different city (departments) and they kinda go from there,” said Hassan, adding that previous participants now serve on Metro boards and commissions.

But participants also expressed surprise that Nashville already feels  welcoming city to immigrants and refugees.

“That surprised me and how special Metro Nashville government is and is actually an example for the rest of the country,” said Yemisrach Mergia, an immigrant from Ethiopia. 

City officials also host the My Neighborhood Academy, which allows anyone interested in learning about the city’s infrastructure to participate. 

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Dulce Torres Guzman
Dulce Torres Guzman

Dulce has written for the Nashville Scene and Crucero News. A graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, she received the John Seigenthaler Award for Outstanding Graduate in Print Journalism in 2016. Torres Guzman is a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. She enjoys the outdoors and is passionate about preserving the environment and environmental issues.