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Final Vision 2040 forum focuses on diversity

Claudia Trivino talks Thursday during the Vision 2040 forum at the Willmar City Auditorium. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR -- Educational opportunities, more affordable housing and more diversity in elected leadership were among the goals suggested Thursday evening for making the Willmar Lakes Area one of the most welcoming and inclusive communities in the Midwest.

Those and other goals were suggested during the fifth and final Vision 2040 public forum at the downtown Willmar City Auditorium.

Rebecca Ryan, founder of Next Generation, the firm hired by the Vision 2040 steering committee to lead residents through the visioning process, asked the 86 white, East African and Hispanic participants to sit in mixed groups and talk about how diversity can be part of the region's strength.

After about an hour of discussion, Ryan called on three of the tables to report their goals.

First to report was Pablo Obregon who said his group came up with two top ideas, although he didn't know if was a unanimous decision.

The first was what Obregon called a leadership incubator and more people representing different cultures and classes among elected city and government positions, teachers, committees and in the private sector.

The second goal would involve working with youth and adults, especially older adults, and organizations to sponsor teams and finding adults willing to sponsor or befriend an athlete, "not only financially but to show up for games, cheer for them, and become friends with the player and family.'' Obregon said.

The second to report was Laura Warne. Her table suggested expanding programs to help immigrants, and young children in particular, learn how to better navigate the educational system.

Her table suggested bringing back diversity activities that have been successful in the past; and finding ways to incorporate the Islamic Society into the community to provide education and cultural information.

Also, her table suggested the city, county and school system provide financial support and that upper management and elected officials participate in cultural awareness; that the Willmar Area Community Foundation support diversity programming; and entities be accessed to assist small business entrepreneur opportunities.

Abdirizak Mahboub said his table focused on the need for affordable housing.

He said education is important and said Willmar Public Schools have a challenge educating kids who are 15-17 years of age but are behind in their education.

Also, he said the immigrant community wants employment opportunities to excel, especially in the middle-level job positions.

At the close of the 90-minute forum, Ryan asked participants to imagine what the region would be like 27 years from today if all the suggestions came true "for our kids and our grandkids. It would be a beautiful thing.''

Written comments from other tables as well be combined for a report to be presented in November.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150