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Category: Green Train

Welcoming Week 2016

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • September 22, 2016


September 16th marked the start of National Welcoming Week  (Sept. 16 – 26), a movement “recognizing that immigrants and refugees make our communities stronger economically, socially, and culturally.” This week and throughout the year we’ll be sharing stories gathered from our own work, as well as the work of our friends and partners, about New Americans whose talents have made our city a better place to live, work, and play.

Below is a list  which includes a collection of stories from the archive that discuss how our city has been shaped by New Americans, past and present. Many thanks to organizations such as InterFaith Works, Catholic Charities of Onondaga County, Hopeprint and the Northside Learning Center for all of their hard work in helping make Syracuse a friendly and welcoming place for these newcomers.

42 Million Have A Name by Hopeprint (2012)

Nicole Watts reflects on the question, “Why do we as America open our gates wide to the immigrant and the refugee?”: “It is not possible to objectify the refugee. They are no longer simply 42 million; they are one and another one. They are orphaned children and homeless families. They are uprooted business men and blossoming adults. They are teenage girls and old men. They are Ah Shim, Jerome, Rana and Bhim. They are friends and they are strangers. They are people. And some of them are our neighbors.”


Video: Monu Chhetri, video produced and edited by Ross Taylor (2014)

Monu, a young chef from My Lucky Tummy, shares her story about giving back to the deaf refugee community: “Humans are social creatures. They’re not meant to be alone and for them to be in their house all the time with absolutely no interaction is boring and sad and lonely. And it’s so important for them to come out and share their feelings whether they’re happy, whether their sad. They have a connection here seeing this. We’re all deaf. We all come from similar experiences that not a lot of people have.”


Fastest Hands on the Northside by Joe Russo (2012)

As a child, Joe Russo remembers visiting the Italian bakeries on the Northside: “Not so long ago I ran into an old school friend who now makes his home in California. ‘I’m back for a visit’, he said, ‘I gotta get a couple loaves. You just can’t get crust like this in California.'”


Green Train Students Act in Play About Their Past (2010)

The Post-Standard discusses the play, “Reflections of the Unsung Genocide of The Congo” developed by Emmanuel Irankunda and Mahirwe Dina Ndeze, graduates of Green Train and refugees from the Congo.


Dinner with Strangers by Adam Sudmann (2014) 

The founder of My Lucky Tummy talks about the food and stories shared as he meets with potential chefs: “I had an idea for a party. Maybe we could convince families to cook foods from home for a popup food court. And so over several weeks we trudged up sludgy snowbanks and into strangers’ homes. Lots of removing of shoes in the cold air. Lots of sitting on floors, being brought bottled water or pepsi or chai. And meals. Meals I will never forget.”


Neighborhood Spotlight: Jai Subedi by Lexie Kwiek (2015)

Our guest blogger from NEHDA introduces a Jai Subedi: “Jai plays numerous roles in the Syracuse community. He is a local business owner, a Northside resident, an InterFaith Works case manager, and he is active on multiple committees. But one of his overarching duties is using his experience as a Bhutanese refugee to help other refugees acclimate to a new country while keeping their culture alive.”


Newhouse Profiles Hari fro UP Start Syracuse, audio recording by Marwa Eltagour (2014)

Up Start entrepreneur and Bhutanese refugee, Hari, shares his idea for a restaurant: “There was nothing of the sort — momo and a few other food — that is not introduced to this place . . . we can make Syracuse as a ‘food of the world.'”

Introducing Work Train

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • July 24, 2014

Yesterday, leaders from business, philanthropy, economic and workforce development, training and education, local government, and community-based organizations announced a new initiative to create job opportunities and career pathways for low-income residents in the greater Syracuse community. The initiative, known as “Work Train,” is dedicated to helping employers in target industries address their employment needs, and enables them to actively develop workforce solutions that align with community partners’ resources. Work Train builds off of the success of the Green Train and Health Train programs. Through strong relationships with employers, both programs boast a strong record of graduation and job placement rates. Work Train plans to build similar industry partnerships between employers, education and training providers, and community organizations to connect community members to jobs that show persistent and robust demand for workers, as well as opportunities for career advancement. The first industry partnership will focus on health care. Work Train is currently launching a partnership with Loretto to recruit and hire nearly 100 Certified Nursing Assistants by September 2014. In 2015, the platform will spread to other industries and areas of the region.

Take a look at some of our favorite quotes and pictures from the press event.


“We have to fill gaps―make work a reality for the people who need it and the employers who need good workers . . . [Work Train] is fundamentally a collaborative effort . . . to give what seems impossible a possible and positive outcome.” – Dominic Robinson, Director of the Northside Urban Partnership


“Focus on training people to get ahead. . . . We have to look at the employers and know where the jobs are. Having a certificate at the end, and not a job, is worthless.” – Assemblyman William B. Magnarelli


“We’ve placed a total of 38 students [from Health Train]. That’s a 100% placement rate. They all have diverse backgrounds and have added so much to the culture of our organization.” – Kathryn Ruscitto, President and CEO of St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center


“We know that growth is always good, but it can come with obstacles. Within four months we’ll need to hire over 100 Certified Nursing Assistants―individuals who share in our mission . . . Our partnership with Work Train made me feel confident that we would achieve our goal.” – Kim Townsend, President and CEO of Loretto


“If people are healthy and self-sufficient . . . the people in our community will be able to live in a peaceful way.” – Frank Lazarski, President of the United Way


“There’s something about Syracuse. You guys do [collaboration] so well―through team work you’re going to create jobs down the road.” – Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy

13th Green Train Graduation

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • May 23, 2014

Fredie and Ernest collage

Our 13th Green Train class graduates today after three months spent working together in the classroom and on the construction site gaining hands-on-experience. Last week we were able to check-in with the students and ask them how they were feeling about graduation. Fredie Jenkins is happy to be graduating, but sad to see the program end: “We’re working together. You get to learn people’s background. Their learning the American way and we’re learning their way.” Ernesto Reina, a refugee from Cuba who has only been in Syracuse seven months, feels much the same way. “I never before worked with Puerto Rican people, American people. Dynamic people,” he explains. The camaraderie among the students builds a platform for collaboration and teamwork especially useful as they’re getting ready to enter the job market.

Later today at ProLiteracy (104 Marcellus Street) we’ll be celebrating graduation with a short ceremony and refreshments. The event will include words from our guest speaker, Suzanne Williams, the Executive Director of Syracuse Habitat for Humanity, and remarks from both Fredie and Ernesto on behalf of the class. We’re so happy to be celebrating such a hardworking group of students, instructors, and staff!

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Photo Friday: Half-way Through Our 13th Green Train Class!

Written by admin  • April 4, 2014

13th Green Train Class

Green Train Applications Due Tomorrow!

Written by admin  • November 25, 2013

Northside UP is currently accepting Green Train applications for our Winter 2014 class!

Green Train is a hands-on workforce training program developed by Northside UP and Centerstate CEO. The program provides unemployed and under-employed people with a unique training opportunity that integrates vocational training with life skills and job readiness coaching. Students complete 10-hour OSHA training and the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) core curriculum, including safety, hand and power tools, construction drawing and materials handling.

We’re looking for candidates who . . . 

– are able to attend training daily for 3 months beginning in July
– are able to lift 50 lbs., perform manual labor for 8 hours daily, and be willing to work in all weather conditions
– are motivated and committed to work in the construction industry or a construction related field after graduating from training

This program is a free tuition, unpaid training program. Individuals must be able to financially support themselves during the program. Those earning an income higher than $27,000 will not qualify for tuition.

To fill out an application, stop by the Northside UP office at 800 N. Salina Street. Please direct any questions to Danielle Szabo via email (dszabo@northsideup.org) or phone (315-299-8228 ext. 10).

On the Calendar: Green Train Graduation

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • September 24, 2013

Our 12th Green Train Class graduates this Friday! The ceremony begins at 11 AM with our guest speaker, Suzanne Williams, the Executive Director of Syracuse’s Habitat for Humanity. Refreshments will be served after the ceremony.

RSVP to Danielle Szabo at dszabo@northsideup.org

Green Train Invitation_Summer 2013-1

12th Green Train Class Begins!

Written by Denise Nepveux  • July 10, 2013

Our 12th Green Train course started this week. Among the 10 students are men originally from Syracuse as well as from Puerto Rico, Spain, Cuba, Sudan, Cameroon, Kenya, and Bhutan.  All are Syracuse residents. Their combined experience includes plumbing, landscaping, carpentry, auto mechanics, masonry, and painting. They bring a wealth of knowledge and an eagerness to learn construction and weatherization skills for employment in the Syracuse area. Welcome, Green Train students!

Green Train Class 12


Bring Us Your Green Train Applications!

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • June 11, 2013


Green Train Collage Class 11

Green Train class 11

Northside UP is currently accepting Green Train applications for our 12th class! Green Train is a hands-on workforce training program developed by Northside UP and Centerstate CEO. Green Train provides the un- and under-employed with a unique training opportunity that integrates vocational training with life skills and job readiness coaching. Through this program, neighborhood residents increase their potential for long-term employment within emerging green industries. Each session, students participate in community-based projects designed to teach skills, while fostering a sense of ownership in their community. The Green Train program consistently maintains a high graduation and job placement rate.

Green Train offers free tuition, National Construction and OSHA certifications, GED and ESL classes, job readiness and support, job searching, a free toolkit, and much more.

We’re looking for candidates who . . . 

— are able to attend training daily for 3 months beginning in July
– are able to lift 50 lbs., perform manual labor for 8 hours daily, and be willing to work in all weather conditions
– are motivated and committed to work in the construction industry or a construction related field after graduating from training

This program is a free tuition, unpaid training program. Individuals must be able to financially support themselves during the program. Those earning an income higher than $27,000 will not qualify for tuition.

To fill out an application, stop by the Northside UP office at 800 N. Salina Street. We will be accepting applications until Friday, June 14 and tryouts for the program will begin June 17-21. Please direct any questions to Danielle Szabo via email (dszabo@northsideup.org) or phone (315-299-8228 ext. 10).

Want to learn more about Green Train? Check out this video made by our friends at Daylight Blue Media.


11th Green Train Graduation

Written by Denise Nepveux  • March 26, 2013

Our 11th Green Train class of fourteen students will graduate this Thursday at 11AM at the St. Clare Theater. We welcome you to join us in celebrating the accomplishments of this smart, hardworking group!

The Green Train students have spent 12 weeks learning construction and weatherization skills via classroom learning and hands-on work experiences. After numerous afternoons of demolition, construction and weatherization activities at 507 State Street, they practiced various insulation and air flow testing techniques for three days at the Telos Center in Jamesville. Finally, the class spent two snowy days at Adam’s Eden Camp in Lafayette. Here, they deconstructed an old wooden supply cabin, salvaged usable parts, and learned how to evaluate and reinforce them for reconstruction. I pulled a few students aside at Adam’s Eden to hear their reflections on the course.

George, a French-speaking refugee from DRCongo, arrived in Syracuse in September. I notice that he speaks more fluently in English now than four months ago when I met him at a recruitment gathering at Bob’s school. Three-hour classroom sessions every morning, he says, helped with this. He also enjoyed connecting with new acquaintances and learning about American workplace culture. “Here, time is money and you work by heart.”

Raul, a longtime Syracuse resident from Cuba, came to the class after a period of unemployment, and was hoping to improve his job prospects. He proudly emphasizes the skills he has gained in building, demolition, and use of hand and power tools. “I made a table, fixed a wall. My team built a doghouse. We worked like a football team, a baseball team. The communication was the first thing.”

José, originally from Spain, feels “a little sad” with graduation approaching. “This was a good experience for me. I’ve learned a lot, and I got to know some people who are really interesting, and other people who are really kind.” José hopes for a job in construction, perhaps incorporating his previous experience in tiling and masonry. He emphasizes the good feeling that comes from craftsmanship: “Something you can see and you can say wow, it’s a good job. It’s amazing. Something beautiful to see. That’s what I like to do.”

Bakari, a New American from the DRCongo, most enjoyed the weatherization aspects of the Green Train course. Like many of the students, Bakari has gained both skills and a sense of competence –a feeling of preparedness to take on a job in his new country. The parents of five children, Bakari and his wife have worked hard to establish their family in Syracuse. Green Train is an important piece of this puzzle. “I feel ready to work now. I want to work. If I get a job, I will be ready to work!”

Recently resettled in Syracuse from Burma, Maang has appreciated equally the English exposure and the hands-on experience of afternoons spent in the workshop. “I’m very happy with the class,” he comments. “I just want to thank you very much for Green Train.”

Green Train Collage Class 11

Midterms at Green Train

Written by Denise Nepveux  • February 21, 2013

February 8th marked the midpoint in Northside UP’s 12-week Green Train construction and weatherization course, which has returned to the Northside after three sessions at the West Side Learning Center. A select group of 16 students— several American-born, and the others New Americans residing on Syracuse’s Northside – spend five mornings per week in a classroom at First English Lutheran Church on James Street learning safety, workplace communications, tool use and geometry for construction. Afternoons, they put what they have learned into action: constructing shelving, building cabinets, insulating window frames, demolishing and building interior walls. Last week Andy Erickson and co-instructor Matt Centore allowed me to observe their midterm evaluation meetings with each student.

A student comes in, wearing work boots, jeans and a t-shirt, and carrying a printed sheet with a few items circled in pencil. His eyes are averted, yet his body language suggests calm confidence. Taking items on the sheet one by one, and expressing himself in clear but effortful English, the student observes that his work has been satisfactory or needing improvement, but not exceptional in any area. His instructors listen attentively. Matt chimes in:

“You are on top of everything we’ve covered in the classroom. Next, we’d like to see you use your knowledge and ability in a bigger way, especially in the workshop. Don’t keep to yourself — share what you know with the other students. Help out a peer when he or she is struggling.”

Andy nods and urges the student to take more risks in the classroom. “Ask us a million questions – you’ll never bug us. Pull it out of us. This is for you – for your own development — and also for bigger notice on the job.”

Another student acknowledges that he has been clocking in late. Matt asks detailed questions, showing clear concern and helping the student identify a strategy. “You’d be valuable to any employer,” he comments. “I want you to have an awesome job. But my main concern now is how to help you get to a construction gig on time. We’d like to work with you to get your mornings more structured, and sure of when you can arrive.”

Each conversation follows a similar route: Recognizing what is going well; identifying areas for improvement; brainstorming how change may occur. Yet the context is unusual. Most Green Train students are New Americans, and many are still in the process of mastering English as a second (or other) language. In some of their cultures of origin, self-evaluation is a foreign notion, and pride in oneself is a vice. In others, time is held more loosely than it is in most US workplaces. A five-minute window in which to punch the clock is a new concept. These conversations with committed instructors help to prepare students to adapt to an unfamiliar working culture. They are continuations of the Green Train classroom and workshop environment, in which students are encouraged to ask questions, take risks, assist one another, and push themselves and their instructors for more learning.

Through the process of teaching and facilitating the “hard” content of the Green Train course – construction and weatherization skills – Matt and Andy are simultaneously preparing GT students to succeed on the job. Their philosophy is to encourage development as workers, as learners, and as people. “Green Train is an environment where we’re able to grow,” Andy comments. “Matt and I are measured in our assessment of the students at the midpoint. We want them to keep pushing forward. But we couldn’t be more pleased with this class. They are where they should be.”

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