Ida Kingston-Dickson joined the IRC in Denver in July of 2019 as our first AmeriCorps member. During her time with the Denver office, Ida played a vital role in helping clients find employment in the U.S. and coordinated the office's employment mentor program. We are grateful for her steadfast support of our clients and the dedication and passion she brought to her work.
Q: How did you first become connected with the IRC in Denver?
A: I was working in the IT industry for a Denver revenue recurring services company as a services renewal specialist. I held that position for five years, and after the project ended, I transitioned into working with the human resources department of the same company. My responsibilities included an HR diversity and inclusion project assignment. It was during my research on this project that I learned of the IRC in Denver. The thought of completing my Master’s program and working for an international humanitarian organization with a local presence like the IRC in Denver intrigued me.
Q: How would you describe your experience with the IRC in Denver?
A: The IRC brought out the best in me! My AmeriCorps program was a one-year assignment with the IRC in Denver from July 2019 to June 2020 working with the employment team within the economic empowerment department. I have had the opportunity to acquire firsthand knowledge of what is involved in refugee resettlement. I am so impressed by the level of support the IRC provides its refugee clients, and the effort to connect them with necessary resources in each client’s five-year window of services – whether it is health care, employment, financial literacy, housing, education for children, etc. As an employment specialist, I worked with my clients through job development, placement and financial security, skill and interest assessments, resume writing, interview preparation, job searching, and helping them build a network of contacts to use to find the right level of employment. I was particularly keen on coordinating the employment and higher education mentorship program. For clients with higher education, these mentor opportunities helped guide them toward higher-level positions. I woke up each day looking forward to helping each client assigned to me. I also worked with asylees, who mostly have higher education, placing them in jobs within the Denver Metropolitan Area.
Q: What will you take with you from your IRC experience to apply to your career in the future?
A: I will always keep in mind the critical role they play with newcomers to the U.S. and how they do it as a team. With the client's needs multiplying due to the COVID-19 crisis, the team worked together to calm clients down and solve the mountain of unemployment. COVID-19 led to the unexpected surge in unemployment, but we continued to come up with strategic ways to provide support and resources for clients who were affected. Despite the impact the pandemic had on the team, I experienced an “all hands on deck” mentality where everyone supports each other.
Q: What’s next in your journey?
A: I see so many opportunities and have so many ideas. So, I divide up my thinking into short-term and longer-term objectives.
Q: In the short term, what are your plans?
A: I’ve just completed my Master’s degree and am finishing my AmeriCorps assignment with IRC this month. I made it! And, I need to take a moment to focus on making my small business grow. I started an arts and crafts enterprise as a way to stay connected with my Ghanaian heritage. My goal is to make these products easily accessible here in the U.S. and globally for those who love African arts and crafts.
Q: And, longer-term?
A: Eventually, I will return to work in program management for an international humanitarian or governmental organization, preferably from Denver. In Ghana, I paused my career with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization to devote time to my family when we decided to relocate to the United States. I loved my position as a bi-lingual program assistant, just like I have loved my position at the IRC. Now is a good time for me to return to my interests in service to our humanity, to our community, and each other.
Q: On a personal note, what is fun for you?
A: Definitely bonding with my family and having time for myself, family road trips, sightseeing and enjoying the beautiful nature of the Colorado mountains. I absolutely love doing anything together with my family, including dancing, singing and sporting activities. I also love cooking African dishes - another way I nurture and connect with my colleagues and friends. As a Christian, I have learned to grow through challenges and I love to inspire, support and help others thrive and grow. This is one underlying value that has contributed to the passion I have towards helping the IRC's clients become self-sufficient through job placement, mentorship and economic empowerment.
By Karen Larsen, communications volunteer at the IRC in Denver