Immigrants, minorities to take stage at Ivy Tech storytelling series

BLOOMINGTON – Ivy Tech will host a storytelling series throughout the 2017-18 academic year to create a platform for local members of underrepresented communities to tell stories of their personal experiences facing issues of immigration, reproductive rights, unemployment, and racism. The first event in the series is free, will focus on immigration, and will be held Friday, November 3 at 7:00 p.m. at the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center, located at 122 S. Walnut St.

Artistic director of the Ivy Tech Waldron, Paul Daily, explained why the series is important. “We can look around and realize that we are divided from our neighbors—by socio-economic status, by race, by religion, by politics,” he said. “This series brings us together for an opportunity to listen and to learn more about what is unfamiliar, venture into what is unknown to us.”

Bloomington resident Aubrey Seader is co-producer of the series. “Each storytelling event will give a more complex view of issues from the intimate viewpoint of a person who struggles with them day in and day out,” she said.

Stories for the November 3 event include those of immigrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers. Some storytellers will be represented by actors, but all stories were written word-for-word by the people who experienced them.

The event will feature stories from:

Naciye Akgun, owner of Sofra Café and Golden Stitch Alterations
Akgun will tell the story of how she was physically attacked while sitting with her daughter in front of her business, Sofra Café, in the fall of 2015. The attack made national headlines but Akgun will tell more about her experience than she has ever shared publicly. She will discuss how her experience in the U.S., both before and after her attack, taught her how to make meaning out of tragedy, and made her feel blessed to be a part of Bloomington, to be an American, and to be a part of the worldwide human family.

Anonymous Iraqi woman
An actor will recount the story of a woman and her family who escaped persecution from militia groups in Iraq. When her husband was kidnapped and held for ransom, she was forced to leave her newborn with family in Iraq to escape the country. Two years later, her family reunited in the United States. She hopes her story can help to illustrate the effects of war zones on families and to serve as a source of hope for the future.

Diane Legomsky, Chair and coordinator of Bloomington Refugee Support Network
Legomsky will recount the work being done by her organization to bring Syrian refugees to Bloomington. She will also discuss how conditions for refugees have changed under the Trump administration and the consequences of inaction.

Pete Lenzen, former member of the U.S. Navy and advocate for Bloomington refugee and immigrant families
Lenzen will tell the story of the day he and his Navy crew rescued a boat of 40 Vietnamese asylum-seekers who were stranded and near death in the South China Sea.

Yusuf Nur, Indiana University assistant professor
Nur, born and raised in Somalia, will share his experience of American racism against black people from the perspective of an African.

Willy Palomo, president of UndocuHoosier Alliance
Palomo will share his poetry on the experiences of Latino undocumented immigrants.

Christie Popp, immigration attorney
An actor will recount Popp’s experience assisting Bloomington immigrants and their families as they go through the legal process to become citizens.

Dr. Rafael Rosario, IU Health pallative care doctor
An actor will tell Dr. Rosario’s inner conflict of a physician who has gone into medicine to help others but faces the challenge of working within a healthcare system that doesn’t allow him to care for everyone.

Irmgard Vicano, German opera singer and Holocaust survivor
An actor will recount the story of the late Irmgard Vicano. Adolf Hitler forced Vicano to sing recitals and operas for him and assigned her a private SS guard to watch her every move. She was eventually deported to the Birkenau concentration camp, which she survived. Iris’s story inspired this installment of the Ivy Tech story series and we tell this story in her memory.

Maya Wahrman
An actor will tell the story of Maya Wahrman, who observed a Muslim man breaking the laws of his religion to offer a detained asylum-seeker knowledge and comfort in the asylum-seeker’s native language.

Additional storytelling events in the series will be announced soon and updated information will be posted online at

Student launches business to help international students

BLOOMINGTON –  Ivy Tech software development student Joshua Johnson recently started a business called Hopper Home Helper, LLC., specifically designed to help ease the transition to Bloomington for international students. The business provides 24/7 concierge-like service to connect customers with transportation, housing, dining and grocery options, translation services, and more.

In April 2017, Johnson placed second for his business idea in the Ivy Tech’s Duke It Out Business Pitch Competition, sponsored by Duke Energy. He launched his business and website,, in June 2017.

“I have been doing Chinese language exchange for the last two years, and the topic of how difficult it is to get situated in Bloomington keep arising,” said Johnson. “I used the Duke It Out event as a chance to pitch my business idea to address this common issue.”

Johnson also works part-time in Ivy Tech’s Express Enrollment Center, specifically helping guest students, many of whom are international.

“I met one student who, after arriving in Indianapolis, had a hard time finding transportation to Bloomington,” said Johnson. “I hear the same experience from many other students.”

Johnson is president of Ivy Tech Bloomington’s Student Government Association and is working toward associate degrees in software development and paralegal studies. Johnson said that his education and professors have been helpful in launching his website.

“As a software development student, I have the skills to create custom code and I can also make informed database decisions,” said Johnson. “I understand how databases, webpages and hosting are connected, and how to use plug-ins to make the website more efficient. One of my instructors, David Marrero, also helped support me in initial stages of the website by answering questions about design and formatting.”

Johnson is currently working with local apartment complexes and other local businesses to place flyers at their locations. The flyers are written in English and Chinese.

“We offer packages tailored specifically for international residents, although services are available to all customers,” said Johnson. “We are now accepting applications for 2017-18 services.”

Johnson plans to graduate in May 2018 and is applying to the Indiana University School of Informatics. He hopes to start a bachelor’s degree in informatics in the Fall 2018 semester.

Johnson received the Ford/EEOC Scholarship and the IU Credit Union Returning Student Scholarship from the Ivy Tech Foundation, and the SGA President’s Scholarship.

Ivy Tech’s Bloomington campus offers eight degrees in computing. Information can be found online at To enroll at Ivy Tech, visit, stop into Ivy Tech Bloomington located at 200 Daniels Way, or call (812) 330-6013. Ivy Tech is open Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.