'To build a stronger community'

Language, education discussed at immigrant integration meeting

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Breaking down language barriers and educating the community on cultural differences were the goals set by residents Monday night at The Boys & Girls Club of Craig.

The meeting of Craig and Steamboat Springs residents was hosted by Comunidad Integrada and Community United as a way to begin a conversation on integrating immigrants into the community.

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The forum was meant to draw ideas from the public on how $300,000 from the Colorado Trust should be allocated to bridge the cultural gap between the local population and immigrants.

Joseph Wisemann-Horther, of the Denver-based Spring Institute for Intercultural Learning, facilitated the meeting. He said the organization's purpose is not based on broad immigration reform, but on building stronger communities.

"Integration is a two-way street," Wisemann-Horther told the group of about 40 people. "The receiving community needs to adjust. The people immigrating here need to adjust. That is what this organization is all about. Bringing these people together to build a stronger community."

During the meeting, attendees broke into small groups and were asked to discuss what an integrated community looks like. They were also asked to brainstorm specific activities that could turn that integrated community into a reality.

The ideas generated from the small-group discussion were then prioritized into six main categories: language, education, health, employment, civic improvement and community building.

Participants' suggestions included:

Holding Spanish and English classes for all who want to participate.

Providing transportation to such classes.

Hosting seminars on cross-cultural skills.

And maintaining a no-questions-asked, access-for-all approach to medical services.

Few of the community members present put employment issues at the top of their priority lists. Instead, they focused on cultural activities that would build community relationships. Wisemann-Horther said Craig was the first community he had visited with that particular ranking.

Summer Laws of Comun--idad Integrada said that she would take the ideas from Monday night's meeting and form a committee of local residents to discuss how the funding from the Colorado Trust budget -- $75,000 per year for four years -- should be spent.

The committee is open to all residents of Moffat County. Anyone interested in volunteering should call Laws at 871-4599.

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