Some local communities have leaders ready and willing to tackle local racism.
Tri-City United, Waseca and St. Peter Public Schools brought “It’s Time to Talk,” a community conversation about race through their Community Education departments, in 2017. They were organized by Region Nine Development Commission with partners YWCA Mankato and Greater Mankato Diversity Council.
But both organizers and participants said those conversations should not be the end.
“We were hearing from communities that there are not a lot of resources available for small communities to learn and talk about changing community demographics, what does that mean socially and economically and how can we continue to be a vibrant and growing community,” said Jessica O’Brien, community engagement manager.
So the commission collaborated with Greater Mankato Diversity Council and the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Community Vitality to create a seven-time monthly educational event. The series, called the Rural Equity Learning Community, wrapped up in October. But participants said the hours of education, activities and relationship-building will stick with them.
“One of the biggest lessons was how big my network is now,” said Keri Johnson of St. Peter. “We all have a different role to play and we’re all linked together so this is a way to expand our impact. By connecting with other people, that will make everything we’re trying to do seem more possible.”
If plans fall into place, more than a common school district will connect Le Center, Montgomery and Lonsdale. A proposed biking/walking path will literally connect the three communities.
The concept for, the path, called the Czech Heritage Trail, came into being last year. Mark Preissing, while working as community education director for Tri-City United Schools, met with the three city administrators and applied for a Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) grant to connect Le Center, Montgomery and Lonsdale. SMIF has funded a feasibility study with a $10,000 grant, and the estimated time of completion for the study is January 2019.
For the first time, members of all three communities attended a meeting to share their opinions on the trail’s development. At Hilltop Hall in Montgomery Wednesday, representatives from Hoisington Koegler Group and Region Nine Development Commission conducted the meeting and facilitated discussions.
Gabrielle Grinde, landscape architect for Hoisington Koegler Group, said the study requires looking at mapping options, casting an analysis and estimating construction costs.
“We’re anticipating this trail could be a 20-year master plan,” said Grinde.
Innovation, funding opportunities, media highlights, and more in the latest issue of Region Nine’s E-News!
Celebrating the MedTech Connect Release, grant opportunities, and more in the latest issue of Region Nine’s E-News!
Grant opportunities, our Feast! Smart Start Program kick-off event and more in the latest issue of Region Nine’s E-News!
Fairmont – Last October, several dozen people participated in a community discussion on race at Fairmont Elementary School.
Two weeks ago, a follow-up discussion occurred, and on Thursday a third meeting took place to continue the conversation.
The discussion was led by Bukata Hayes, executive director of the Greater Mankato Diversity Council, who was working in conjunction with Region Nine Development Commission and Fairmont Community Education and Recreation.
Last meeting, those present thought two ideas would most help continue the conversation about race in the community. Those ideas were: creating opportunities to have casual conversations with each other and finding a way to showcase different people’s stories through the newspaper or some other form.
Grant opportunities, new staff and more! Read about it all in Region Nine’s April 2018 E-Newsletter.
According to Jessica O’Brien of the Region Nine Development Commission, the white population in Le Sueur County is projected to decrease in the years to come while other racial populations remain the same or increase.
O’Brien offered this information at a forum on race held Monday evening, April 16 in the Tri-City United High School cafeteria. Montgomery was the final stop for YWCA Mankato, an organization that promotes racial justice as well as women empowerment. Previously, the speakers and facilitators had previously visited Waseca, St. Peter, New Ulm and St. James.
“I talked to Jessica the end of last summer,” said Mike Preisler, TCU Community Education director who coordinated the race forum at TCU. “She wanted to know if this was something I thought would be welcome in the community, and I thought it would.”