FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A new initiative in Northwest Arkansas hopes to help the area thrive by becoming a more inclusive place.

Marco Berrios and his family had to adapt to a whole new culture as a young family.

“I came over to this country when I was four years old, legally. And then my parents overstayed their visa out of nothing but fear for our lives and their lives and wanting a better future for their children,” Berrios said.

moving to Arkansas from Guatemala was not always easy for Berrios’ friends and family.

“We’ve had racial slurs hurled at us, sometimes physical objects hurled at us,” he said.

But one positive influence changed Berrios whole perspective on life. Someone told him about the life program at NWACC, which empowers high school students to achieve success.

“I was just an apathetic kid on my phone just trying to pass the time and then something clicked. What I think it was was just seeing other people who are like me up and doing the program and being mentors and offering guidance,” Berrios said.

That sense of community is part of the message behind NWA Welcoming Week.

“We just want to feel part of a community and we’re all here to try and solve problems and raise our families and feel safe in the places we call home,” Welcoming America Executive Director Rachel Peric said.

Last week, organizations that support immigrant communities gathered to share ideas and show support.

“Barriers that we might face because of language or culture or just the opportunity to access services, that we’re reducing those so that everyone can really be fully part of the community,” Peric said.

That is when everyone has a chance to thrive.

“When you strip away the labels, strip away all the division, all the hatred, all the crap that you see, I think you find that most people in this community, they care about their neighbors and they’re willing to go out on a limb to help a stranger,” Berrios said.

to see more events surrounding welcoming week, click here.