Embracing a New Country, a New Community, and Calling Both “Home”

NJHI 2017: Next Generation Community Leaders Preparing Elizabeth’s Next Generation of Community Leaders

I was young and scared, growing up and living in Ghana. I did not see much hope for a good life. Then I got lucky. A worldwide group called the International Rescue Committee (IRC) found me and my family.  According to the IRC web site, the organization “provides opportunities for refugees, asylees, victims of human trafficking, survivors of torture, and other immigrants to thrive in America.”

Sponsored by the IRC, my family and I arrived in the United States in 2017. Soon, I was introduced to Groundwork Elizabeth and learned the organization was searching for youth to participate in the Next Generation Community Leaders program. What a difference it was, to go from a place of fear and uncertainty to learning how to be a leader in my new community!

I was only 14 years old when I joined the Next Generation Community Leaders team in 2018. It was a program and my first job!  Through this experience, I learned that it’s important to be on time, developed social and language skills, and made connections with other people, my age and older.

The Elizabeth Next Generation Community Leaders team, with their coach Stephania Gonzalez (wearing white). Next Generation Community Leader Sarah Tizie is sitting immediately to the left of Stephania.

I was really happy when our coaches and the adults at Groundwork Elizabeth asked me to be part of a second Next Generation Community Leaders youth team the following year. Our plan was to use the skills we learned and teach residents in our community how to access food and available services, while also applying our skills as we collaborated with other community groups to ensure we could affect people’s lives for the long term. One of the several issues we explored was safe environments in relation to experiencing less flooding. In January 2020, our team joined with other youth to study the City of Elizabeth’s 10-year-plan and look for ways we could do even more to benefit our community by partnering with the city. And the city officials listened to our ideas!

I am especially happy that this job is changing how I see myself.  I connect better with other youth, and I am so lucky that I could be part of this group.  I really don’t know how I would have fit in to my new home without this opportunity.

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Sarah Tizie
Groundwork Elizabeth