CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Every day, people from around the world come to New York’s Capital Region hoping for a fresh start, a new opportunity, or just a place to call their own. To aid those difficult transitions, honorees at the first ever International Center of the Capital Region Achievement Awards shone brightly as examples of what hard-working immigrants contribute to the community.

“I know that we should not quit, because there’s easier things to do, but we need to proceed forward as much as we can and then who knows? More people will know about us and will support us and we’ll continue to do the job,” says Father Mikhail Myshchuk, pastor of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Watervliet, who was one of two honorees to receive the Community Service & Philanthropy Award.

NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton acting as emcee at Thursday afternoon’s event and luncheon which gathered community members, business partners, and municipal leaders from all over the Capital Region. The full list of honorees including:

  • Civic Engagement & Citizenship Award: Posthumously awarded to Dr. HP Wang, founder of GE’s Asian Pacific American Forum (APAF) and the Capital Region Chapter of APAPA (Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association)
  • Business & Entrepreneurship Award: Aneesa Waheed, owner of Tara Kitchen
  • Distinguished Career Award: Dr. Roger Ramsammy, Hudson Valley Community College President
  • Community Service & Philanthropy Award: Manoj Ajmera, founder of the Festival of Nations
  • Community Service & Philanthropy Award: Rev. Mikhail Myshchuk, Pastor of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Watervliet
  • Volunteer of the Year Award: Diane Conroy-LaCivita, Colonie Senior Service Centers, Inc. Executive Director

Every honoree bringing to light a different side of Capital Region diversity. Organizers say ICCR hopes such representation can inspire others.

“We have people coming from the Indian community, from the Chinese community, from the Ukrainian community just for this awards program alone. It’s really great to have that inspiration for those communities so that we have these heroes to look up to,” says International Center of the Capital Region Executive Director Jennifer Zhao.

Zhao says society today can sometimes have a negative association with the word “immigrant”–something she hopes ICCR, its awards, and honorees can dispel.

“There’s new people coming here every day, and they’re making contributions. I hope everyone can open up their minds and open up their hearts to different communities and recognize we are all in this together, we all want to make the Capital Region a better place and the world a better place,” Zhao says.

The honorees themselves also say they want to show especially those struggling under hardship and stigma that there is power in writing your own story.

“I want to help bring more of these stories to the forefront about how immigrants coming into our community are actually enriching us,” says Waheed.

“[Receiving this award] it’s an honor, and it’s not just me really. To do community service, you need teamwork,” says Ajmera.