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SPECIAL REPORT: Keeping Up with Diverse Population

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28) Census data shows that of the roughly 11,000 residnets who moved to the Corridor in the past decade, more than half of those people are minorities. That means the Corridor is becoming more diverse at a faster rate than most other parts of the state. Thats at least partially thanks to local universities and businesses that draw in people of different races with all different experiences.

Some of the students at Hoover Elementary School are not native English speakers. So theyre in an English Language Learning program.

Thats just one of the many ways the Corridor is adapting to its increasingly diverse population.

"Those students are in the general classrooms the majority of the day but then receive some assistance down in the E.L.L. room throughout the day depending on their level of English proficiency, said Hoover Principal Clint Stone.

Thats not out of the ordinary for students at Hoover, where roughly a quarter of the K-5 population has some interaction with that program every day. Principal Stones son is in First Grade and does not go to Hoover. But even hes impressed.

"They were teaching him, "macho" and "pua" and different Swahili words and he was just fascinated. And I said, "Caleb, that's what we get to do every day, said Principal Stone.

At the next step, Roosevelt Middle School, its no different.

"All of our students are learning from each other and from our different cultures, said Roosevelt Principal Autumn Pino.

School officials say that early exposure can only help when the kids from Hoover and Roosevelt finish their schooling and enter the workforce.

"The more exposure they get about other cultures, the better they will become especially when it comes to the global market competition, said Cedar Rapids School District Intercultural Specialist Rama Muzo.

But that helping hand goes beyond E.L.L. classes and even leaves the school building with the final bell. The Cedar Rapids School District has started to assist families with tasks you might not expect a school district to do, like finding Doctors or social events.

"We provide that service, said Muzo. We connect them to the already available services in the community."

Muzo says it isnt enough to interact with just the students anymore. If parents feel that theyre a part of the school community, they are more likely to take an active role in their childs education. Sometimes, that means even providing translators for Parent/Teacher conferences.

"The main intention is to promote the parent's involvement, said Muzo. And with the parent's involvement the students tend to do better."

In the boardroom, pretty much the exact same thing is happening. Alliant Energy faces the challenges of an increasingly diverse community with Employee Resource Groups.

"Which provide all of our employees an opportunity to come together for professional development, networking and community involvement, said Alliant Energys Director of Corporate Diversity and Inclusion Anne Harris Carter.

Duane Arnold hires some of its workers in clusters, allowing them to go through training with fellow new-comers, building comradery.
"They form a bond amongst themselves and they form a bond outside of work and are more likely then to stay, said Duane Arnold Site Vice President Richard Anderson.

Each company might do it in different ways, but by building community and helping new residents make connections, they create a happier and more diverse Corridor.

The University of Iowas Chief Diversity Officer, Dr. Georgina Dodge, says to some extent, we are fighting our instincts.

"We still face some of the challenges that always existed in terms of being tribal, In terms of feeling safer among our own, in terms of mistrusting things that are different, said Dodge.

But to thrive in the educational or business settings, having an international understanding is vital.

"It's very important, said Associate Professor Emergency Medicine at the University of Iowa Dr. Azeem Ahmed. If we think that we have all the answers here in the Midwest, we're wrong. It's a global society."

Through those measures, its becoming an increasingly global Corridor.
 
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