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Interns and Volunteers

IsraIsra El-BESHIR

Isra is completing her final semester as a graduate student in the Department of Anthropology at Wayne State University. Isra graduated from the Seidman School of Business at Grand Valley State University and is fluent in Arabic and English. Currently, she is presenting portions of her Master’s essay at The Center for the Study of Citizenship Conference on the ‘Meaning of Citizenship’ in Detroit and at the Association for Political and Legal Anthropology Graduate Conference in Chicago this year. Her topic is: “Hegemonizing Identity: A Struggle for Citizenship Belonging”.

In addition to being fluent in Arabic, Isra will be studying Spanish in Spain this summer.

Her future plan is to pursue a career in Immigration Law.  Considering all that she has accomplished just this last year with Welcome Mat Detroit, we have no doubts that Isra will enjoy a great, productive future.


 FatimahFatimah FAROOQ

Fatimah is a student at the University of Michigan, double majoring in Political Science and Global Health and Environment. She plans to obtain an MPH in Epidemiology and Global Health and Population, as well as an MD and PhD in infectious diseases.

Fatimah grew up spending her summers in her grandparents' village in Sudan. She spent her childhood running around barefoot in the hot sun, playing cops and robbers with tree branches, kitchen with recyclable containers and hopscotch with lines drawn in the sand. It is from that experience that her passion for community service and public health emerged. Her passion, since the age of eight, is to change the world through service, compassion, and empowerment, and one day become Director of the World Health Organization. She dreams of travelling the world from village to village, feeding the hungry, clothing the poor and treating the sick. Additionally, she dreams of opening free clinics, starting humanitarian aid and children’s funds organizations, building schools, building orphanages and boarding schools for children of HIV/AIDS-infected parents, and working to eliminate poverty and educate women and children through humanitarian aid, empowerment, and responsiveness.

In the fall of 2012, Fatimah had the opportunity to take a public health course at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. The professor, former Dean Kenneth Warner, introduced her to Adnan Hammad, the Director of ACCESS Community Health, Harold Neighbors, Associate Director of the Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture and Health, as well as Julio Frenk, the former Director of the World Health Organization and current Dean of Harvard School of Public Health.

At the university, as a member of Amnesty International University of Michigan Chapter and the Foundation for the International Medical Relief of Children, Fatimah spends her time volunteering at local soup kitchens, youth centers, and hospitals. In addition to working with Welcome Mat Detroit, Fatimah volunteers at the Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture and Health in Ann Arbor, and raises funds to help send emergency school and child survival kits to war-torn and devastated areas, and polio vaccines through UNICEF to children in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria.



Casey GREGONEN                  Casey Gregonen pic                                                                        





Lauren, born and raised in southeast Michigan, is currently working on her MA in Cross-Cultural and International Education through Bowling Green State University. She received her BA in 2010 from the University of Michigan in Psychology and Sociocultural Anthropology and then went on to teach elementary English in the Philippines for two years with the Peace Corps. Since then, she’s been back to the Philippines twice, most recently to intern with the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement, working on disaster risk reduction trainings and her Waray and Tagalog language skills.

Lauren has many interests within cross-cultural and international education such as exchange programs, international student support, language learning, global women’s health, and immigrant support. She is thrilled to be interning for such a stellar organization, surrounded by the friendly staff of the International Institute, and learning more about Detroit as it continues to rejuvenate. 

Lauren  Luis

 Mariana MartinezMariana MARTINEZ

Born in Mexico City, Mariana moved to Brookfield, Connecticut where she graduated from Western CT State University with a Psychology degree. Mariana is currently completing her Master degree in Public Administration with a concentration in Non-Profit Management at Oakland University.

During her college years, she lived in Spain and shortly after graduation moved to France where she lived over 5 years. Mariana pursued a career in management within the hospitality business working recently for IGESA, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to serve the Ministry of France managing two properties.

In 2011, she came back to the US and as part of her career change to the non-profit sector she joined the Welcome Mat Detroit through the International Institute of Metro Detroit. “Management has always been my passion, but I was missing the humanitarian aspect. Moving back to the States I knew was the perfect time to do the career change I was looking for”.

Being trilingual, Mariana is thrilled to have joined a team full of energy working for one the causes she strongly believes in, making Detroit a welcoming city for immigrants. 


MicahMicah NELSON

Micah was born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Bethesda, Maryland where she graduated from the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in 2012. Micah has just completed her freshman year at the University of Michigan, where she plans to major in History and minor in Community Action Social Change.

At the University of Michigan, Micah is a member of the Coalition for Tuition Equality, advocating for in-state tuition rates at the University for undocumented students who graduated from Michigan high schools. Micah also works with J Street UMich, advocating for a two state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Micah is excited to be spending this summer in Detroit, learning the history and people of the city. In her spare time, Micah loves to read, dance, and listen to music.


 VictoriaVictoria OGLETREE

A Detroiter born and raised, Victoria has a passion for the restoration of this city. “This is my home and I remember how beautiful this city was, and how it can be again.  It depends on us!” says Victoria.

She has returned to Detroit for the second time after living down South, and is now volunteering with Welcome Mat Detroit after working with International Institute’s Bob Sullivan on job re-training and referral. Of her volunteer work tracking down organizational information for Welcome Mat Detroit’s searchable database (including ethnic chambers of commerce and foreign consulates), Victoria summarized that her volunteer work has taught her to organize herself, manage time, multi-task on projects, and set priorities and commitments. As a member of a team coordinating together, Victoria feels that she has learned a lot.

Victoria is an artist, seamstress, and a clothing designer.  “I am a people person and in the process of hiring myself out as a wardrobe planner. I began teaching others knitting and crocheting even at bus stops, as I travel, and meet so many wonderful people."



Elena photo   Elena POPESCU

Taking part in a European au pair program in 2009, Elena arrived here at twenty-one years old, on her own, from Moldova. After leaving the au pair program, she was faced with the daunting task of navigating the U.S. immigration process and laws. To make ends meet, she started her working life at the very bottom, being hired by a housekeeping company to clean residential homes. Elena later opened a small cleaning business of her own, building a respectable clientele through customer referrals. While building her business, she was simultaneously putting herself through school, working around the clock to ensure both personal and professional success.

Having been raised in a poor, ex-communist country of the Eastern European block, hard work has been taught to be the only companion to survival in Moldovan circumstances. As a child, she was taught goal setting, and it has since served as long-term vision and short-term motivation.  Although she didn’t understand at the time the importance of it, Elena now realizes that everything she is today is a result of the goals she has set and the culmination of both the large and small choices she has made. “I believe that what I get by achieving my goals is not as important as what I become by achieving them”- said Elena.

Her immigrant experience to the United States along with the traveling experiences-both across America and to countries such as Romania, Ukraine, France, and Italy- have triggered an interest in learning and exploring different cultures, languages and concepts such as internationalism and transnationalism. As a result, she decided to pursue a degree that would complement her interest in International Studies. She is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in International Affairs with a concentration in French at the University of Michigan in Dearborn. The UM-D has provided Elena with vigorous learning experiences and has helped her build a career path through an internship opportunity in immigration integration network, one of her main areas of interest, with Welcome Mat Detroit.  

As a member of the Golden Key Honors Society, Elena has recently been nominated to represent her university and community on a Delegation on International Relations and Diplomacy program in China. She has also earned herself a place on the Dean’s List, for the Fall of 2015 semester, at the College of Arts, Sciences and Letters she is currently attending.

      While she is proud of the business she has created and the academic honors she has achieved, she is perhaps most proud to say that in 2014, she became a citizen of the United States of America.  



SuYuSuyu REN

 Originally from China, Suyu came to the U.S. to pursue her master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Design at College for Creative Studies, Detroit. Suyu already possessed a Bachelor’s of Industrial Engineering from Beijing Forestry University.

As a designer, it is her vision to apply her skills in problem solving and cross-cultural communications. Her passion is helping people enjoy a better life. At Welcome Mat Detroit, Suyu is working on analyzing the project’s searchable database to improve its presentation and interactivity, as well as designing publicity flyers and other virtual branding materials. In this, she works cooperatively with communications and technology staff from ACCESS to plan, develop, and carry out public information needs.


ClarissaClarissa SCHUBERT

Clarissa is a second-year graduate student in the Intercultural Relations and Integration program at the University of Education in Schwaebisch Gmuend, Germany. She graduated from Schwaebisch Gmuend and achieved the 1st German State Exam in seconday education. Additionally, Clarissa passed the final exam for the extended studies in Intercultural Education. During her studies, she was a support teacher at the project "Integration by Education" - a language-promoting project for students with migration background in secondary schools. She taught students in German, developed curricula, and measured the language competence of the students.



DanielaDaniela VANCIC

Born in Serbia and having immigrated to Detroit at a young age, Daniela has always had a strong interest in internationalism and immigration.

Having graduated from Michigan State University in 2013 with a bachelor's degree in International Studies and Economics, Daniela is planning to pursue her master's degree at a university in Europe in the field of International Relations and Diplomacy. She spends a portion of each year in Europe visiting family and friends in familiar cities and being a tourist in new ones. Last year, Daniela spent a five-month study abroad semester in Vienna, one of her favorite European cities, where she was able to improve her German language skills in addition to her Serbian, Romanian and Spanish skills.

Daniela's work at the International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit includes completing various tasks given by the Executive Director, but mainly updating information for Welcome Mat Detroit's searchable database to help immigrants transition smoothly to life in Metro Detroit.

Daniela is a lover and promoter of all things Detroit, and has been proud to help make Detroit an even more welcoming place for immigrants all over the world to share their innovative ideas and skills, start businesses, and have a place to call home. 



Cecilia photoCecilia WEISS


Cecilia was born and raised in Austria.

She completed her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration at the University of Applied Science in Krems, Austria. Currently, she is attaining a Masters degree at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, Austria.

Cecilia enjoys living abroad and getting to know other cultures and countries.

This internship is the perfect opportunity to not only get to know Detroit and Michigan; but to interact with members of other cultures living here. In the future, she would love to work for a supra-national organization where she hopes to, step-by-step, make positive changes in the world. A major reason why Cecilia decided to work with Welcome Mat Detroit is that she sees immigrants as a key human resource for any country. Immigrant populations can offer valuable input in societies, especially where overall population is at a decline. But, besides the net benefit of immigrants, Cecilia wishes to help those who were forced to leave their homes and face difficulties finding their place within their new surroundings. “I believe that any cultural clash or economic disparity connected to migration can be overcome as long as new residents feel welcome and accepted.” Cecilia is excited for her summer internship and hopes that in her time here she can make a difference!


ReginaRegina WHEELER


A native Michigander, born and raised in River Rouge, Regina has been a resident of the city of Detroit since 1983.  A graduate of the University of Michigan, she studied Russian language, Social Studies, and minored  in Psychology.

Regina is an intern at the International Institute from the Mature Workers program of the Detroit Urban League. She is now working with information from different international organizations on Welcome Mat Detroit; thus, learning much about the work and the role of immigrants and internationals in the city of Detroit.



 BrandiBrandi WOODS

Brandi is a native Detroiter and has been in some aspect of the customer service industry for nearly 20 years. In the end, though the job title or position may have changed, one thing remains the same: Brandi loves to serve, whether it was with a tray balanced on her arm, clothing draped over her shoulder or a phone pressed to her ear! As global society is changing quite rapidly and cultures are beginning to blend together in both work and play, she now wants to direct her customer service skills to the next phase of human service and work in the fields of immigration and citizenship assistance. “I want to be a welcoming face and voice to those needing a patient ear and a willing heart to help connect them with the necessary resources for settling in this country as comfortably and as seamlessly as possible.” Occupations in customer service have taught her to be prompt, attentive to both the spoken and unspoken needs and to do her best to anticipate and fulfill any other essentials that may be important to making sure one is put in an optimal position to thrive. She enjoys learning about other cultures and understands that our differences make us unique but our likenesses make us the same in many ways. Brandi volunteers at Welcome Mat Detroit under the fearless leadership of Mary Lane assisting on the many exciting projects in the works that promise to bring revitalization and community to both natives of the Detroit Area as well as the many New Detroiters coming into and currently living in the city.


Interested in Volunteering or Interning?  We have a place and a need for you!  More Information