This weekend on In Focus, we’re opening a conversation on the contributions of New Americans who now call upstate New York cities and towns home. JoDee Kenney sat down with Syracuse Common Councilor Chol Majok, who is the first former refugee to be elected to office in Onondaga County. Majok arrived in the United States in 2001 as a young boy, fleeing violence and genocide in South Sudan. He attended Fowler High School in Syracuse and went on to earn a doctorate from St. John Fisher College. Majok calls public service a family tradition and encouraged all New Americans to get involved in their new communities.

When it comes to immigration, Majok said Syracuse is one of many cities enacting policies that make for a welcoming and inclusive environment. With the creation of a New Americans Liaison in the mayor’s office, he said he’s hopeful the immigrant community will become less isolated and connect with various services available. Majok said many New Americans want to be engaged and, many times, all it takes is an invitation. He also pointed to the skills immigrants bring with them and hopes to grow opportunities. Sometimes tapping these talents, Majok said, is a matter of overcoming language barriers.

You can watch the full interview with Majok in the video player above or on the Spectrum News App. And be sure to tune in for a look inside the biggest issues impacting upstate New York, on In Focus with JoDee Kenney — every Sunday on Spectrum News 1.