Stephanie Issa was born of Lebanese decent in 1987 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. At the age of six years old, Stephanie’s mother decided that if she wanted her children to have a successful future, they would have to move to The United States. This is the beginning of Stephanie’s immigration story to America.

Stephanie was raised in Boston, Massachusetts, where she attended public schooling. She continued her education at Fordham University in New York where

Stephanie Issa

Stephanie Issa

she pursued Political Science and had five different internships with organizations such as CNN Money, Time Magazine and LBL Foundation for Children. As a young female graduate in 2009, Stephanie had a hard time securing a job during the recession. She worked odd jobs to make ends meet, but decided to move to Rhode Island where her family had relocated to from Boston, in the hopes of exploring new markets.

In Rhode Island, Stephanie was finally able to find success by starting a graphic design agency in Providence. Because Providence is a small community, Stephanie was able to find mentors who could guide her and provide her with the necessary tools to get started. She was able to obtain clients, network and gain traction with her business.

Although Stephanie today is happy with the continued growth in her career, she says being an immigrant has not been easy. Often times, people are uninformed and also misguided in their attitudes towards immigrants. They assume that all immigrants are here illegally. In reality though, many immigrants, like Stephanie and her family, thoroughly and efficiently follow the immigration process. Stephanie’s mother, for example, began to pay taxes even before she received her green card. Other immigrants will pay taxes before they are granted a social security card because they know it is part of the citizenship process. These facts negate the allegation that immigrants are societal money drainers.

While Stephanie is confident in herself and in her life in America, she still recognizes the difficulty many immigrants face, such as obtaining papers, discrimination, and disenfranchisement. The immigration system is very complex and gives the impression that immigrants are unwanted.

In the future, Stephanie hopes to take her business to the next level and attract new clients. She also would like to “have clients in several locations around the states.” In the mean time, Stephanie would like to work with and hire more young women in the graphic design industry because it was hard for her and she would like to pay it forward. Stephanie would also like to see a future Rhode Island that resembles the friendly community feel of Brazil, where everyone knows his or her neighbors. In addition, Stephanie hopes Providence as a city becomes more active and alive. Stephanie feels at times that Providence is empty when students are gone for vacations. She wishes there were more people out and about, and says, “The people make it beautiful. They bring the energy…[Providence] needs to get young people outside, and the money will follow. Give it that spark and make it energetic.”

If Stephanie could tell other immigrants anything about Rhode Island, she would tell them that the state does celebrate different cultures. For example, she attended a Lebanese festival in the city. Cultural celebration engenders a sense of home. Stephanie declared, “We have a lot of pride about our homelands, and are happy to share with others.” People may immigrate from place to place, but culture will always follow.

Written and compiled by Patti Hoban, Nicholas Iadeluca and Sammy Sullivan