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Everyday Heroes: For immigrants who arrived in Iowa, she's a friend and advocate

Anne-Louise Dugger
Anne-Louise Dugger

Anne-Louise Dugger of Cedar Rapids is nominated as an Everyday Hero for her efforts to assist immigrants who have come to Iowa. She and others are being featured in this occasional series honoring Everyday Heroes, presented by Fairfax State Savings Bank.

Anne-Louise Dugger is a friend, advocate and guide for countless refugees and immigrants who hope to call Iowa home.

As the education program manager at the Catherine McAuley Center in Cedar Rapids, Dugger is responsible for the recruiting and training of hundreds of volunteers who work with more than 200 students each week on a variety of skills, including English language learning classes and preparation for the U.S. citizenship exam. Last year, the program worked with nearly 500 students representing 56 countries.

“We want our students to know that they are welcome and that they are safe,” Dugger says. “Every opportunity here is an opportunity for them to learn.”

Dugger is a big believer in education leading to opportunity. In the last four years, she earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Coe College in 2015, finishing a program she started in her teens. She received her master’s degree in education from Mount Mercy University in 2018 and currently is getting her endorsement in English as a Second Language from Mount Mercy, with plans to complete a doctoral program.

Dugger achieved all of this while working full time, but hesitates to call herself a hero.

“I think our students are heroes,” she says. “I think our volunteers are heroes and our employees are heroes.”

When asked what she loves about her job, Dugger doesn’t hesitate.

“Everything,” she says. “There’s so much laughing and learning happening here. I will walk by one-on-one tutoring sessions and see people giggling together.”

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The joy she has for her work shows in the work that she does, according to Catherine McAuley Center volunteer Rich Patterson who, along with longtime friend Daniel Patterson, co-wrote Dugger’s nomination.

“Immigrants quickly sense that her friendship and purpose knows no hours or location,” the pair stated in their letter. “If perplexed by relationships, the law, new food, snow or simply not knowing what to do, they contact Anne. Her help is genuine, enthusiastic, limitless, and available every day, whether she’s on duty or not.”

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