prepared by Tom McRoberts, co-chair of committee (director of Center for Small Towns)
Background/Goal In our first meeting, the Community Dialogue members discussed the purposes of the Community Dialogue series as originally envisioned in the COPC grant proposal.
Briefly, our overall charge is to address issues of cultural diversity, particularly as it relates to building a tolerant and welcoming environment in our community. The original intent in the COPC grant application was to focus on emerging community attitudes as the number of residents from other ethnic backgrounds increases. There was sentiment in our first group meeting to include not only ethnicity, but to address other issues such as gender, sexual orientation, and disabilities.
We also discussed the desirability of broadening the membership involved in this dialogue series and to have as a co-chair a community member, perhaps somebody from the clergy.
I indicated that I would contact the Morris Human Rights Commission, of which I am a member, to discuss our work and to invite their suggestions or recommendations as to who should be involved in dialogue and the issues we should be mindful of.
Our plan is to have a large stakeholders meeting, sometime in August or September to address the issues of cultural diversity and to ascertain the things (activities, services, etc.) that are currently being done to make our community a welcoming place.
I still plan to have a meeting of stakeholders in August or September, but I wanted to give a bit more focus to our agenda. With that in mind, I met with Sal Monteagudo (the newest member of our group) to discuss the stakeholders meeting.
That meeting would be broadly inclusive involving as many individuals who we can identify as having an interest in creating a welcoming environment in Morris. They would be drawn from all sectors of the community, including education, social services, communities of faith.
While we will address multiple dimensions of a diverse community, we thought that we should start with the key issue as outlined in the COPC grant proposalwhich focused on the welcoming of ethnic diversity.
The purposes of this first meeting would be as follows:
to introduce the stakeholders and to ask if others not included should be invited to future meetings;
to discuss the COPC grant and its goals and activities;
to discuss what we are including in cultural diversity not only ethnic diversity, but also issues related to gender, sexual orientation, disabilities, social and economic differences, etc.
to discuss the order in which we propose to address these issues in a systematic way.
As we address each dimension of diversity, we would pose these three questions:
What is the specific diversity issue being addressed, what are the positive aspects and areas of concern regarding particular diversity issues in our community?
And, what is already being done to address this issue (or issues)? Related to that, who in our community (individuals and groups) are directly involved in this issue?
What other activities or services could be done to advance an environment respectful and welcoming of diversity?
The emphasis here is not on Morris having failed in some way, but it is to acknowledge that we could be doing more to improve our understanding of diversity and to offer activities that would enhance diversity in our community.
Again, we would start with issues related to ethnicity, using the structure described above and then later address other issues related to cultural diversity."
As Sal and I discussed our work, a number of other things came up in our discussion.
Sal is a great admirer of the work of Learning Unlimited, and he felt that that program (which largely has been appealing to older residents) could be a model for our community dialogue series. The advantages from his perspective are that it has a regular (set) schedule, and that it involves community members as “teachers and mentors.” He also suggested that we make use of the community access TV channel as a way of promoting diversity, perhaps through broadcasting our community dialogue programs. Another idea is that we try to make the services and activities related to diversity readily available/visible to the community through a web presence, perhaps within the context of the COPC website."
My proposal is to have more of a shared network of resources in the media services department of the UMM Campus and community. I feel this would help develop more of a "community dialogue". With our increasing technolgy, this would "reach out" to more of our rural college community. I vision that the city access channel (#6) will be widely used more and viewed than it is now. From the years I've been living here, I notice there has been many meetings, events, functions, etc.. that many of us (including me) have missed and would've love to participate in. For example...
Ethnic/Cultural Events: Norwegian Parade, CNIA Pow Wow, BSU Inspirational Choir, etc...
Sports Events: UMM-MAHS Football/Basketball/Volleyball/Etc... Games
Performing Arts/Music Concerts/Theatre Peformances: CAC, Choir Concerts, Jazz Fest, etc..
Community Gatherings: Kiwanis Annual Talent Show, Prairie Pioneer Days, Horticultural Night, etc..
Educational Events: Meth Informational Meeting, etc...
Government: City Council Meetings
Sports Events: UMM-MAHS Football/Basketball/Volleyball/Etc... Games
Just having been able to have this "media access-services" would bridge more of the campus and community. There are residents out there "interested/bored" watching the city access channel wondering what's going on in Morris. This would be very informational especially to the large number of "newcomers" of the Morris community each year.
I'll be having a new "housemate" (from Melrose and works at diversiCom in Sauk Centre moving in this new 05'-06' academic year and he'll be majoring in "Digital Media Services" (create your own major). I had the opportunity to go with him last week to talk to several folks in campus about this unique major. One in particular is Roger Bowman, who shared about many exciting opportunities this year with the UMM Media Services...
UMM Cougar T.V. (a channel for the residential halls)
Videotaping for PBS (Public Broacasting Services)/TPT (Twin Cities Public Television), which they've been already doing for the Appleton station (Pioneer Public Television)
New "high-tech" video recording camera
Facing a tide of immigrants flowing their way, Rochester and other small Midwest cities are reaching out to communicate with newcomers. But goodwill efforts to make them feel at home often require improvisation.
Matthew Mueller, a Rochester fire captain, volunteered to learn a language other than Spanish, but the city contracted with a company that wasn't fully geared to teach Arabic, and it doesn't offer Somali.
So Mueller, like other firefighters and police officers, wound up with Spanish -- even though school data suggest three-quarters of Rochester's immigrant population speak other languages.
That combination of goodwill and difficult fits and starts is typical of the adjustments that smaller cities across the Midwest are having to make with a tide of immigrants flooding into the nation's heartland, according to two new national studies.
A report by the Century Foundation examined Midwestern states such as Minnesota and Iowa under the label of "immigration's new frontiers."
Before 1995, about 75 percent of the nation's immigrants lived in only six states: California, New York, Florida, Illinois, Texas and New Jersey. Now that share has fallen to about 66 percent, as 22 other states, including Minnesota, have seen rapid growth, the report says.
Inexperienced state and local governments are improvising policies to adjust to the newcomers, the report said. "But ... they almost invariably are halting and far from adequate to achieve whatever goal officials are trying to determine," it said.
That study comes after another on the same topic by Leif Jensen, a rural sociologist at Penn State University, who said the upside of an effort such as Rochester's is the message it sends.
"The receptivity of local leaders to new immigrant groups is critical if they are going to assimilate successfully and adapt to the local culture and economy," Jensen said. "Around the country we are seeing antagonism in some places, and others where local officials are taking a very receptive stance to new immigrant groups -- in some cases, even folks they think might be undocumented, but whom they see as human beings first and foremost."
A need on several fronts
Immigrant and Spanish teacher Ivonne Parry started working in the Rochester schools just a couple of years ago -- and at once, she said, began hearing requests from staff members to teach them some Spanish.
This year she launched a program to equip them with useful phrases: janitors who can say "no running in the hallways" in Spanish, and teachers who can tell parents their children are having problems without depending on the students to translate.
"It's backed by the school district 100 percent," said Erin Spencer, the district's head of staff development. "The size constraints of a small computer lab made us limit it to 17 people, but there's a waiting list if we offer it again. And after hearing feedback about wanting to move further along, we're looking at Spanish 2 and 3."
Police and fire officials in Rochester, which has about 97,000 residents, are piloting a far more ambitious program: one that seeks to turn emergency responders into Spanish speakers via an online program. About 80 people volunteered.
"Eighty percent of our runs are medical, including crash victims," said Deputy Fire Chief Lyle Felsch. "It's important to understand, 'Are you all right? Where do you hurt?' Our purpose is get a rudimentary understanding of language, even if we're not really fluent."
Parry was delighted to learn that scores of city police officers and firefighters had volunteered to learn foreign languages, but she doesn't believe that 20 minutes a day online is going to equip them to accomplish much.
City officials are recommending that amount of online study during the pilot period. Linda Trude, senior director of institutional marketing for Rosetta Stone, the company offering the program, said the company recommends more time than that: "Three to four hours a week, in 45- to 60-minute increments."
Firefighters in particular, with downtime during their long shifts, could well spend more time than that. "We do live in the fire hall in 24-hour shifts," Mueller said. "It gives us time to study. I've started in on Lesson 1-C, and I'm doing pretty good: 'females, males, boys, girls, airplanes, horses, dogs.' "
Variety poses problems
Ideally, Felsch said, first responders would know a range of languages, but the variety of origins for Minnesota's immigrants and refugees makes that a challenge.
"With 57 languages spoken in our schools, it's impossible for officers always to have a second language at hand," he said.
The willingness of Minnesota police officers to learn immigrants' languages is noteworthy at a time of much anti- immigrant sentiment, said Katherine Fennelly, professor of public affairs at the University of Minnesota and the author of the Minnesota portion of the Century Foundation report. Officers in Apple Valley, for instance, have learned Spanish.
As halting as some efforts might sound, said Chaska Police Chief Scott Knight, who records his voice-mail message in Spanish as well as English, it's important to make the effort.
"The fact that I'm trying," he said, "is a sign of respect."
firstname.lastname@example.org • 612-673-4440 email@example.com • 612-673-4511
World Lingo, recommended by the Minnesota Dept. of Education
The Third National Conference on
Quality Health Care for Culturally Diverse Populations:
Advancing Effective Health Care through Systems Development, Data, and Measurement -
October 2 - 4, 2002, Chicago, IL
Westin Chicago River North Hotel-diversityrx
Jeanne M. Nelson, MSN, RN
Coordinator Multicultural Healthcare Alliance
Mayo Clinic Rochester
2100 Campus Drive SE
Rochester, MN 55904
"As Coordinator of the Multicultural Healthcare Alliance Jeanne Nelson works closely with the ethnic communities in Olmsted County, MN. The Alliance, a collaborative initiative of Mayo Clinic, Olmsted County Public Health Services, and Olmsted Medical Center, formed in 1997 to help people from different cultures access healthcare. The most visible intervention of the Alliance is the PathFinder program. In this program, PathFinders, bi-lingual, bi-cultural staff, teach people in their community the knowledge and skills needed to independently access healthcare for themselves and their families. Jeanne serves as supervisor of the Pathfinder program. As the Alliance Coordinator, Jeanne also works closely with area healthcare organizations to promote culturally competent care environments and to minimize systems’ access barriers. Previous work experiences include nursing for 10 years in culturally diverse, inner city care-settings, primarily in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Jeanne received a M.S.N. degree from Villanova University and a BSN from the University of Maryland."
*referred by Blandin Foundation
"ALEXANDRIA, Minn - As we usher in the new year the Alexandria City Council will be ushering in a new effort to promote diversity.
"Alexandria is a growing city and it's important to reflect a welcoming attitude to all cultures," said LaTresse Snead, who is a member of Alexandria's newly formed Cultural Inclusiveness Committee.
According to the 2000 Census 98 percent of Douglas County Residents were white, but Snead says that will change soon.
The world is becoming more diverse. It's coming to Alexandria too, so the city needs to get ready," said Snead.
The committee will focus on communicating the importance of diversity with city residents, officials and businesses.
"When all of these parties are welcoming to everyone the city thrives and people can see what a vibrant place we are," said Snead.
Snead says welcoming people from different cultures into Alexandria could be a huge benefit to the local economy.
"A diverse group of people from surrounding areas are starting to come here to shop and vacation. This helps dollars cycle through the local economy, so we want to be welcoming," she said.
Beginning in Jan. the committee will hold monthly meetings at City Hall, which will be open to the public.
Written for the Web by Anthony Kiekow.