Upwardly Global
2016 Annual Report

Letter From the President

Dear Friends,

The past year forced us all to reflect on the values we hold as Americans. At Upwardly Global, it solidified our commitment to our work and to upholding our country’s proud tradition of welcoming and integrating newcomers.

On November 9th, the day after the national election, we held our annual gala in New York City. On that night we also celebrated ten years of serving talented men and women in New York City - and in this report you will meet one of our very first New York alums, Sandra, who is also celebrating her ten year anniversary since restarting her professional legal career.

What I said that night, and it bears repeating, is that no one who has come into Upwardly Global’s program has asked to be given a job. The individuals we serve want to compete for the job that aligns with their skills and experience, and to be valued for their contributions. And there is nothing more American than success that comes from hard work and determination.

In 2016, we expanded and upgraded our program to reach thousands more highly skilled immigrants and refugees. With the support of Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation, UpGlo launched a new digital platform that provides a state-of-the-art learning experience for our jobseekers. We also partnered with Coursera to provide our refugee clients with free access to courses and trainings in relevant industries from top U.S. colleges and universities.

Our dedicated partners also recognized the need to support the most vulnerable newcomers. We are extremely grateful to Accenture and the Walmart Foundation, which have helped UpGlo to develop specialized networks and resources that empower refugee and immigrant women jobseekers.

The launch of these new platforms and services is the result of years of work and collaboration with others in the field to build a best-in-class program and raise awareness of the population we serve. Our program model has been recognized both nationally and abroad. In 2016 I presented on refugee economic integration at the Transatlantic Council on Migration and the Innovations in Migration Conference in Berlin. I am proud to see so much of this work come to fruition as UpGlo launches ambitious plans in 2017 to package and share the vital components of our training program with immigrant and refugee-serving organizations around the country.

I am inspired every day by the unwavering determination and optimism from our program participants, and the dedication our staff, alumni, volunteers, board, and supporters. We recognize that there will be challenges ahead, but we will be here to support and honor the journeys of those working to fulfill their destinies in the United States.

Thank you for all you do as part of our community.

Nikki Cicerani, President & CEO

UpGlo in the News


2016 Highlights

Number of Job Placements


Average Placement Salary


Average Income Gain


% Placed in High Demand STEM Fields


Number of Family Members Supported


Economic Impact

$38 Million

(in additional tax revenue and consumer spending)

Cost Per Placement


Return on Investment


33 UpGlo alumni hired in 2016 are working in universities and colleges to help educate our nation.

Meet Our Alumni

  • Benson

    “I was born and raised in Kenya. Being adventurous, I went to South Korea when I was 23 for an exchange program and further studies, and fell in love with the people, food, the language and dynamism of the high-tech Korean cities. After graduate studies, I became a full-time university faculty member at a local university and also contributed articles to newspapers as a freelance correspondent for more than five years. I had been to the U.S. previously for three short stays as a doctorate student. I decided to return to Chicago permanently in late August 2016 to reunite with my lovely wife and three-year-old son.

    My first few months in the U.S. were both blissful and a little worrisome. Blissful because I finally reunited with my family after four years of unexpected separation due to immigration challenges. I love technology, but when I had to watch my son being born via Skype, I realized technology wasn’t ‘magical.’ I was worried because I knew it would be a challenge finding employment without having working experience in the U.S. By the time I landed at the airport, I had already sent out my fiftieth resume. From those 50 attempts, only two responses came back, and with the same verdict: ‘impressive CV but we’ve found someone else.’

    Just a few days after my arrival, my wife mentioned to me about Upwardly Global. It’s the best thing that happened when I think about my professional path in the U.S. I found every workshop, training, and piece of advice precious in understanding the job interview expectations in the U.S. Trust me, I can now write my resume with my eyes closed, thanks to Upwardly Global.

    I currently work as an admissions advisor at an IT college in downtown Chicago. I am also blessed that my current employer, knowing the passion I have for teaching, allowed me to take a second job. I teach an IT Bridge course in one of the City Colleges of Chicago. I relish my current professional engagements.

    Life is getting smoother each day. How wonderful it is to go home each evening and be with my family. Playing with my son every morning and evening brings so much delight. I thank God for this country and hope that it will forever be a land of freedom, opportunities and diversity.”

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  • Sandra

    I am a Colombian attorney. I came to the U.S. with my husband and my three-year-old daughter in 2001. We had to look for protection in the U.S. due to the violence in my country. The main barrier I had to overcome was that I didn’t know the language and I had to start learning my ABCs when I was already 30 years old.

    Initially, I was working odd jobs, mostly babysitting 14 to 16 hours a day, seven days a week. I didn’t have time to access the formal education system to learn the language, but I knew that I had to learn English to be able to rebuild my career, so I kept my earphones on day and night.

    People around me were telling me to forget about my professional career. But I had worked so hard to achieve my professional goals. I knew that it wouldn’t be easy, but I had to close the gap between what I was doing and who I am.

    I believe that Upwardly Global came to New York as an answer to my prayers. I had been in the U.S. for about four years, pushing hard but not knowing how to find a job in my field. Through Upwardly Global I met an immigration lawyer who passed my resume along to the firm where I was eventually hired. I have been with Akst & Akst for ten years, now focusing on corporate immigration law.

    My husband, my daughter and I have dual citizenship in the U.S. and Colombia. This happened because of the generosity of this country. Sometimes you need help and you have to open up to people and realize that you’re not alone. Everything you have done in life has value; it doesn’t matter if it was done in another country. You cannot forget who you are no matter where you are coming from.”

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  • Belinda

    “Working as a young female architect in a predominantly male profession in Ghana was a bit challenging. With the help of my former boss I was able to establish myself as a credible architect and project manager. I oversaw various projects and portfolios of all sizes across the country.

    I came to the U.S. to join my husband. I loved that there was so much to see here in terms of architecture. We read about America being the land of opportunity. You hear breathtaking stories of ordinary people creating empires out of virtually nothing. I expected that securing a professional job here would not be a very difficult thing, but I was in for a rude awakening.

    Having been a career woman—or a ‘Boss Chick’ as we say back home in Ghana—I wanted very badly to get back to a professional career. I got a job at Walmart as a cashier and in a month was promoted to customer service manager. I learned about UpGlo when a cousin of my mate told me that UpGlo had helped his mother. I applied that night and finished all the online classes in a day. I had previously paid an online service to help me create a professional resume, and quickly realized that was never going to get me anywhere.

    I attended as many UpGlo-organized events as my schedule would allow. It was through one of these events that I got to know about the Lendlease, the organization I now work for. It is said that if you find your passion, follow it, and you will never have to work for the rest of your life. I have found my passion, and I believe it marks the beginning of the rest of my life for my family and me.”

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15 UpGlo alumni matched into medical residency programs in 2016, and are on their way to becoming physicians in the U.S.

Employer Profile


“As a highly diverse organization we have found in UpGlo the ideal partner for our recruiting efforts. Through the employer partner program, Celergo has hired nine UpGlo alumni since 2012. All started in client-facing roles supporting global payroll for Fortune 500 clients in over 120 countries. These positions require specific language skills, analytical capability, and most importantly, cultural astuteness, to resolve complex payroll situations. And Celergo has found UpGlo alumni to be well suited for these roles as they are educated, articulate, and experienced in global communication styles. Today, many of these nine have moved on in their careers to other functional areas including implementation services, treasury, accounting, and global partner management.

We are proud of this impactful partnership, and we will continue working with UpGlo as an employer partner because it is the right way for us find highly qualified employees. We need people who will easily fit into our culture and have the capacity to understand the complex international environment we work in on a daily basis. Through their work ethic, dedication, expertise, and their proven ability to succeed in stressful situations - such as the upheaval caused by moving to a new country - UpGlo alumni are an asset to any organization.

Our hope is that UpGlo continues to provide the excellent service to jobseekers to ready them for working in the U.S. Not only do we benefit from UpGlo’s tremendous work, but so does everyone else in the community who understands and appreciates the value skilled immigrants bring to the workforce.” - Michele Honomichl, Founder, Executive Chairman, & Chief Strategy Officer, Celergo

UpGlo Candidates

In 2016, UpGlo candidates
were hired from A to Z!


And hundreds moved from survival jobs
back into skilled professions.

Security Guard
Data Analyst


Taxi Driver
QA Analyst

In 2016, we helped to place 249 refugees and asylees in professional jobs, including engineers, IT specialists, accountants and scientists.

Refugee Services

Focus on Refugees

America’s story is one of immigrants and refugees. Help keep the American dream in reach.

At Upwardly Global, we have always understood that full integration requires economic integration. The global refugee crisis presents both a critical need and an opportunity. With the support of our partner, Accenture, we have expanded our online training platform with refugee-specific networks and resources that will enable many more newcomers to thrive.




Country of Origin: Ethiopia

Profession: Nonprofit management and gender-focused development

“I am the mother of two beautiful daughters. That inspired me to study gender. I wanted to be a change agent.”

Full profile >


Country of Origin: Afghanistan

Profession: Administration and Management

“America is my new homeland. I have to and I will succeed--for my family.”

Full profile >


Country of Origin: Cameroon

Profession: Public Health Physician

“I never imagined I'd go through something like this--but I do believe things will get better. You've got to be hopeful.”

Full profile >

Funding Partners

Welcoming Alliance

Upwardly Global’s Welcoming Alliance honors our most generous donors as philanthropic leaders who believe in our mission to eliminate employment barriers for skilled immigrants and refugees and integrate this population in the professional U.S. workforce.

We encourage you to consider joining the Welcoming Alliance—the power of your combined support ensures those seeking to rebuild their lives and careers in the U.S. will always find support at Upwardly Global. Learn more about the Welcoming Alliance and its members. If you join before May 1, 2017 you will join as a Founding Member and will be recognized as such on our webpage.

Funding Partners

Top Donors


Leadership Councils

Thank you.

We are grateful to all who support our vision of a United States where immigrants are seamlessly integrated into the professional workforce and the fabric of American life, and are recognized for the value they add to both.