Merrimack Partners with ACCL to Offer Career Services to Immigrants and Refugees

Professor Shannon Butler-Mokoro, director of Merrimack's Master of Social Work program, received a Bud Ackerman Foundation grant on behalf of the African Community Center of Lowell (ACCL).

The ACCL is a newly independent 501(c)3 nonprofit offering resources and community services to African immigrants and refugees. It was founded in the summer of 2016 by Gordon Halm, an immigrant himself and a long-term resident of Lowell, Massachusetts.

For years, Halm has worked to build systems of support for African immigrants and refugees in the area through educational, social and cultural initiatives. Previously housed inside Lowell Community Teamworks, the ACCL became an independent nonprofit in 2020.

Butler-Mokoro, who teaches in the Winston School of Education and Social Policy, serves on the ACCL board and has been deeply involved in the organization’s transition this past year.

“As challenging as COVID-19 has been for our work and our community, we were able to take this time as an opportunity to branch out on our own,” says Butler-Mokoro, who has served on the board of ACCL since its inception. “During this time, we applied for several grants to support our programming and offer additional resources for the African community either displaced by COVID-19 or severely impacted by the consequences of the pandemic.”

The grant from the Bud Ackerman Foundation will award more than $9,000 to provide career counseling services for community members facing both personal and professional challenges due to the strains of COVID-19 shutdowns. ACCL programming will include career assessment services, cover letter and resume writing workshops as well as mock interviews with career counseling professionals. The grant also helps support ACCL’s summer school program by providing Chromebooks and teacher support to the program.

Butler-Mokoro was able to tap into the resources available at Merrimack’s O’Brien Center for Career Development to make these services accessible. Michelle Giordano, a Merrimack alumna and former graduate fellow in the Winston School of Education and Social Policy, will join Butler-Mokoro and the ACCL as a career counselor this summer.

I am grateful for the opportunity to use the knowledge and skills I learned through my coursework in the higher education program and as a graduate fellow in the O’Brien Center to serve the ACCL,” Giordano says. “As I work with community members to build resumes, explore career paths and navigate the job search, I have been able to learn the stories and strengths embedded within this community.”

The ACCL-Merrimack College career services programming is supported by the Bud Ackerman Foundation in collaboration with the Bridge Club of Greater Lowell. The program started in mid-June and will run through the end of July 2021. Three community members who connected with Giordano and the ACCL have since obtained employment.

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If you are an African immigrant or refugee living in the Greater Lowell area, please email to learn more about career services and other free resources available.


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