Editorial: How does the Albert Lea community welcome diversity?

Published 9:11 pm Thursday, October 12, 2017

One dimension of a healthy community the Tribune seeks to promote is inclusion, or how people intentionally seek ways to utilize the diverse backgrounds of everyone for the benefit of the community.

A study completed by Rural Pulse, a research study commissioned by the Blandin Foundation, found that 53 percent of people in rural areas in Minnesota in 2016 said they think their community’s ethnic or racial makeup has become more diverse in the past five years and 71 percent of people in the rural part of the state said they felt their community is inviting to people of varying backgrounds. Although this is a fairly high number, it was down more than 10 percent from 2013.

When asked if their community does a good job accepting and embracing differences, 69 percent of rural residents surveyed said they thought it does, compared to 81 percent of urban residents.

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The study went further on to look into how residents in rural Minnesota work across their differences. Of the respondents, 73 percent of people interviewed said they think their communities can work across differences such as ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion and nationality.

While Albert Lea is a predominantly caucasian community, like the rest of the state, it, too, is seeing an increase in diversity.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the Hispanic population made up about 8 percent of Freeborn County’s population at 2,750 people. That was up almost 2 percent since the 2000 census.

In the last 10 years, Albert Lea has also welcomed several Karen and Sudanese refugees to the community.

What is Albert Lea doing to welcome these new residents to our community?

According to the Blandin Foundation, people should be consistently making the effort to capitalize on the differences in the community.

A healthy community is one where all people feel like they can meet their needs, where they can work together for the common good and where they can participate in creating their future.

We believe one of the success stories in reaching out to these new groups in Albert Lea has been the development of the Community Resource Center.

Open to people of any background, the center is open to help people understand the resources available in the community. It is also the place where people can go to look for ways to get involved in the community.

We also applaud the utilization of success coaches in Albert Lea Area Schools, where people of various backgrounds and languages can communicate with parents and students of similar backgrounds on a level they are familiar with.

While there is always room for improvement, we believe Albert Lea is making strides in the right direction.