Constance Mulbah Helps Refugees Transition and Thrive

One of the strengths of the Baldwin-Whitehall School District is the diverse population that makes the District home. Students in the District come from 42 birth-countries and speak 34 native languages. When individuals immigrate to the United States they face a whole host of challenges to become acclimated to the cultural norms that are easily taken for granted. These challenges are compounded when families flee their countries as refugees. Pittsburgh boasts a strong network of organizations that help with the many tasks involved in making a new country home. Baldwin High School Alumna Constance Mulbah is one of the compassionate and competent professionals helping those families transition. After graduating BHS in 2008, Mulbah earned her Bachelor's of Science in Public Health from Slippery Rock University. She has worked with a number of nonprofits in the Pittsburgh area and served for two years with the Peace Corps as a Community Health Educator in Senegal. Mulbah now works as a Case Manager at Acculturation for Justice, Access, and Peace Outreach (AJAPO).

Mulbah works closely with refugees and immigrant families on a daily basis. She explains, "as a Case Manager, my duties include serving as a liaison for clients on American culture, norms, and customs. I assist clients with anything from applying for affordable housing, getting medical coverage, child care, referral to ESL programs, school interventions for children that are experiencing difficulties adjusting to their new environment, to financial-literacy training and making sure families understand the importance of documents that are being sent home. I also work directly with new-arrival clients on making sure children of school ages are enrolled in school during the initial 30 days in the country."

Mulbah finds her work deeply rewarding. She shares, "I enjoy meeting the clients in their early stages and building the close relationships with the families. I also enjoy working with other staff on developing solution-based methods that help clients reach their full potential."

Her care for others is rooted in her own experience. When Constance Mulbah was 14 years old, her family fled Liberia, West Africa. Mulbah notes that refugee children often have to absorb the change not only for themselves, but also for those around them. She recalls, "navigating a new culture/place always comes with its own set of difficulties. And in most immigrant families, the pressure of integrating the whole family is often centered around children of school age in that family. In my circumstance, and for most of my peers at BWSD (also of immigrant background), not only did we have to learn basic social and acculturation skills for own integration process, but we also learned them to help our parents navigate this new environment as well. Having been in charge of helping my family adjust to the new culture made me realize that I took on a huge responsibility at an early age and I often had to let go of any extra curricular activities at the time, but it helped me understand that I had some amazing people in my corner cheering." This led her to pursue her current work. She shares, "I have always had an interest in refugee development and community health as it relates to the immigrant population. A huge part of my experience as a young adult growing up in Pittsburgh has been rooted in my identity as an immigrant. At a young age, I knew the value of an effective Case Manager and the huge role they play in helping newly resettled families adjust to their new homes. I looked up to my Case Managers, and actually maintained a close relationship with some of my mentors during my early adjustment period. AJAPO is actually one of the agencies that helped resettle my family, so working as a Case Manager has allowed me to experience the resettlement process in full circle."

Mulbah found a place to grow and make a difference in the District. She recalls, "my experiences as a young immigrant in BWSD opened my eyes to some amazing people in the area that truly care about the development of refugee students." Mulbah worked closely with Ms. Dunn, Dr. Niemi, Ms. Rock, and Dr. Williams on political and social movements centering around increasing immigrant and refugees students' voices in the community. She reflects, "not only did those small moments empower students to take interest in local government, it also created a space that allowed refugee students to fully express themselves."

Her work giving to others now is an outgrowth of the care she received while in the District. She explains, "working so closely with Case Managers from BWSD has helped prepare me for my current position. The compassion and patience experienced from staff at BWSD have allowed me to always put my clients' needs first, and to provide culturally appropriate services to clients based on their needs."

Mulbah reminds current students to soak up all the moments of high school: "I encourage students to join activities outside their comfort zone because I strongly believe that it's in those 'different' environments that we experience the most growth."