Who is a member?
Our members are the local governments of Massachusetts and their elected and appointed leadership.
The U.S. State Department in February praised the work of West Springfield, which in recent years has taken in refugees from more than 30 countries as diverse as Ghana, Russia and Syria.
In an early February visit, Simon Henshaw, the second-ranking official in the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, described West Springfield as an “exemplary example of American outreach to refugees and helping resettle people,” the Springfield Republican reported.
The visit focused on the Coburn Elementary School, where about 40 percent of the roughly 500 children arrived as refugees, according to Mayor Edward Sullivan. Despite the linguistic challenges, the school has received a top rating for its MCAS performance and other criteria.
“We want them to have the best opportunity to prosper within our community and American society at large,” Sullivan said. “We don’t want those children to be shortchanged.”
Over the years, the city of nearly 30,000 has taken in a range of refugees, many of them fleeing war and unrest, according to Sullivan. One example is an Iraqi family that had to flee their homeland because the father, who aided U.S. troops as a translator, showed up on an insurgent group’s hit list.
One reason West Springfield has attracted so many refugees, according to Sullivan, was the work of Lutheran Services of New England (now Ascentria Care Alliance) and Jewish Family Services of Western Massachusetts. The two organizations helped refugees adapt to American life.
Some refugees have ended up buying homes and rehabbing them, Sullivan noted.
“Houses that might have been blighted in the past are now pretty good, thanks to the work that [the owners] have done,” he said.