Two years ago, I had no idea how the concept of creating a nonprofit for First Generation American would evolve. All I knew was that I had an undeniable and ever-growing passion for being first generation, and I could not stop talking about it. Every encounter, whether it was a sales meeting for my IT firm, a networking event, or a party with friends – the topic of growing up with a strong Polish upbringing in the US would inevitably enter the conversation.
This pride of having two cultures, knowing multiple languages, my love for cabbage and beets, and experiencing countless vacations on Babcia’s farm in Poland resonates with me every day. It’s these things that made the voice in my head get louder and louder. No, I’m not crazy (at least, not that crazy), I am just extremely humbled to help pioneer this journey. The voice represents the need to explore, embrace, and celebrate the experiences of first generation Americans.
When Jessica Rosas and I made our “shoot for the stars” in January of 2012, we wrote down some grandiose plans. The idea was to go completely out of our minds and imagine what we could do one day, with regards to this passion project. Since we both grew up first generation and connected with so many of our peers through this common denominator, we wanted to create a platform for “FGA’s.” There was limited information out there that documented the first gen experience, the concept was relatively foreign to many people, and there was a lacking sense of pride for FGA’s. Hence, our goals included programs to foster academic support, cultural enrichment, and social awareness for first generation Americans. One of the biggest items on the “shoot for the stars” list even included establishing a holiday. These dreams are now becoming reality.
For the most part, 2012 was the year of planting the seeds. We had regular coffee meetings before starting our workdays, monthly meet ups with friends to enjoy wine and share stories, and really treated this as a beloved hobby with intention to “do something big” someday. As our network grew and outside interested increased, 2013 gave us the opportunity to coordinate charity events for amazing people like Alex Blaszczuk, and also complete strangers across the world that were devastated by a typhoon in the Philippines. We were contact by Karol Wrobel, to whom we owe thanks beyond words, and were offered a column in Chicago Rewia. We added a key member to our team, Andrew Hill, who helped us rally support for a national holiday and pushed us to move into a formal direction. We found ourselves in a studio, in front of live stream cameras at AR TV Chicgao, thanks to Robert Stafecki, and interviewed numerous first generation Americans. We put on our aprons and stepped into Basia’s Kitchen with the lovely Rachel Brown, who taught us to make traditional Polish food. We even ran to end homelessness with A Safe Haven Foundation at their annual 5K race, where Jessica and Andrew both placed third in their age groups. The “we” in all these statements reflects the FGA community that made all these accomplishments possible.
As we look forward to a new year, we are excited to drop the word “Project” and develop our organization as an official nonprofit with intention to obtain a 501c3 status. This will be the year that we truly make history. For anyone out there that is interested in working with us to make this movement happen, we welcome your support and hope to connect with you.
Thanks to everyone that has been following this column, sharing your stories, and being part of this journey. I wish you all a Happy New Year, filled with great success, good health and lasting happiness. Cheers to a memorable 2014, and God Bless!
To connect with us online, please Google: First Generation American
By: Ania Jablonowski