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2 Austin residents named Outstanding Refugees

Two Austin residents were among 22 individuals from across Minnesota recognized as Outstanding Refugee Award recipients on Monday at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul.

Austin City Councilman Oballa Oballa (First Ward) and Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota legal assistant Maylary Apolo were named Outstanding Refugees by the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

“Few of us can relate to the experiences refugees have gone through but we can certainly recognize and, in the case of these awards, honor those who have persevered and made a better life not only for themselves but enriched Minnesota with their ideas, talents and work ethic,” said Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead.

Oballa was selected in 2020 as a recipient of the Young Leader Award for his leadership of LeadMN. The 2020 awards ceremony was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Apolo was selected as a 2021 Civic Engagement Award recipient for her work with the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota.

Preceding the ceremonies, the department sponsored a virtual symposium highlighting the state of resettlement in Minnesota.

Now in its fifth year, the annual Outstanding Refugee Awards celebrate the courage, resilience and entrepreneurship of refugees, and their contributions to Minnesota.

The department uses federal funds to help refugees succeed in school, secure employment, become U.S. citizens, learn about their new communities and connect to community resources. In 2020, Minnesota welcomed 291 people with refugee status primarily from Burma (Myanmar), Somalia and Ukraine.

Between January and May 2021, Minnesota welcomed 40 refugees.

For more information about refugee services, visit the department’s resettlement webpage at mn.gov/dhs/partners-and-providers/program-overviews/refugee-resettlement. To learn about previous recipients of Outstanding Refugee Awards, visit the department’s Outstanding Refugees webpage at mn.gov/dhs/outstanding-refugees.

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