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Cedar Valley Inclusion

Times have changed.

We have too.

Allen College recruits men and women of all races, ethnicities and abilities for careers in nursing and health sciences. We celebrate diversity, and we are inclusive. It’s our mission and our culture. We’re not the only ones who think so. Allen College was awarded a Nursing Workforce Diversity grant for $984,000 from the United States Department of Health and Human Services – Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). There were only 10 HRSA grants awarded nationwide. We’re proud to be honored, and we’re using the grant to help historically underrepresented students discover all we have to offer and all they can become. If you see yourself in this picture, call us. You are welcome at Allen College. • 319-226-2000

Cedar Valley Inclusion



Nancy Newhoff Editor

his is our third publication of Inclusion, a magazine devoted to the vast diversity in the Cedar Valley. I am amazed by the great stories we are finding of diversity in the work place, in our schools and in our communities. This publication features stories about how businesses are including diversity in their workforces, how the schools are embracing the changes they face with newer populations moving to the area, and how longtime diverse businesses continue to strive. Why is this important? Diversity makes this community stronger. It gives us a rich array of restaurants and shops that share various cultures. It teaches our children to look at the world around them with open eyes and to learn from other cultures. It gives us a big city feel in a small-town atmosphere. It enriches all of us. We are always looking for new story ideas to be included in future publications. If you know of a person, business, organization or agency that is going above and beyond to celebrate diversity in the Cedar Valley, please send me a note or email: Nancy Newhoff, P.O. Box 540, Waterloo, IA 50704, or | 3

Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc.

Tyson Fresh Meats Cares about the Cedar Valley Tyson Fresh Meats is proud to support growth and prosperity in the Cedar Valley. We are committed to contributing to the local economy and to making a difference in our community through job opportunities, employee benefit programs, our diversity, and the many rewarding partnerships we enjoy throughout our community.

©2012 ©20 12 Tys Tyson on Foo Foods, ds, In Inc. c. Tra Tradem demark dem arkss and ark and reg regist istere ist eredd trad ere trad radema emarks ema rks ar aree owne owne wnedd by by Tyso Tyso ysonn Food Food oods, s, Inc Inc.. or or its its sub subsid sidiar sid iaries iar ies.. 308 ies 308820 82034820 34-001 3400155 001

Cedar Valley Inclusion


Family-owned business expanding.


BUILDING INSTITUTE Team prepares students for’real’ world.


Family opens heart to 13-year-old Ethiopian amputee.


32 SENAD DIZDAREVIC craftsman builds on business.



WINNERS Diversity awards recognize community efforts.

Iowa feels like home to Pakistani physician.



Community provides jobs, freedom for immigrants.

Computer skills help young man with Asperger’s find CUNA success.



GROUP Support group helps families

TALLIX Parapalegic physician and his



transition into U.S. life.

Festival celebrates range of cultures, ethnicities.

Publisher David A. Braton Editors Nancy Raffensperger Newhoff Melody Parker Project Manager & Advertising Sales Sheila Kerns (319) 291-1448

Contributing Writers Karen Bushanam Emily Christensen Jon Ericson Meta Hemenway-Forbes Tina Hinz Nancy Justis Pat Kinney Jim Offner Andrew Wind

service dog make impact.

Community Foundation supports services.

Graphic Designers Amanda Hansen Angela Dark Contributing Photographers Rick Chase Brandon Pollock Matthew Putney Tiffany Rushing Dawn J. Sagert

A publication of The Courier, Waterloo-Cedar Falls. | 5

Cedar Valley Inclusion

Teme Larson (# 42) is excelling at sports like football at Hoover Middle School, playing without his prosthetic leg. TIFFANY RUSHING / Courier Staff Photographer

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Cedar Valley Inclusion

TRIALS & TRIBULATIONS Family opens heart to Ethiopian youth who refuses to let amputation slow him down


t just 13, Temesgen Larson has overcome more than any child ever should. The boy, born in Ethiopia, struggled daily for survival. When his mother fell ill, the child, then only 5 or 6, took to begging on the streets of his city to gather enough food and money to support his family. Two years ago, Teme, as he’s now known, was rescued by Diane and Scott Larson, a Waterloo couple with two biological children and a previously adopted Ethiopian daughter, Sabrina. The Larsons knew their journey would not be easy. Sabrina came to them as a toddler with very little in the way of verbal skills. She learned English without a problem. Teme knew no English. And physically, he had challenges that many had warned them would be very difficult to overcome. His left leg, which was severely burned in a fire, would likely need to be amputated. The wounds never healed properly, which made it impossible for Teme to walk on both legs. Instead, he moved through life on his hands and knees. Since 2008 the family, along with a small group of supporters, have fought the necessary battles and come out on the other side. There have been moments of hardship and moments of great joy. The things that they thought would be the most difficult, like the amputation, proved to be an easier transition than they expected. Teme had the surgery to remove his leg shortly after arriving in the U.S. and is now adept at maneuvering on his silver and bright green prosthetic limb. However, Teme said learning to speak and read was much harder than he, or his parents, had ever planned. The Hoover Middle School sixth grader still spends several hours a day in an English language learner program, but his vocabulary is sound enough to earn him a spot on the school’s honor roll. Athletically he | 7

Cedar Valley Inclusion

is excelling at football, basketball and wrestling — some using his prosthetic limb and others going without. “In general people have been really supportive,” Diane Larson said. Though the family’s experience in the Cedar Valley has been mostly positive, Diane said there have been low points along the path. At one point, shortly after the family adopted Sabrina, Diane was at Barnes and Noble with Sabrina and her biological daughter, Noelle, when someone in passing made a comment that included “the N-word.” “We were passing each other. I was going in, and he was leaving. I looked at Noelle like ‘did he really just say that?’” Diane said. “I couldn’t decide if I should approach him, but then I decided that anybody who would say that, it wouldn’t matter what I said. She was just so little, and so beautiful. I couldn’t figure out how anyone could say that.” Diane said the racial diversity in Waterloo has gone a long way toward making her family seem less odd, though she said she still gets some sideways glances when she is out-and-about alone with her two adopted children. Those glances are usually less common when the entire family is together. Teme said he has had no trouble making friends, though some are curious about his history. And he is happy to share. “They ask about leg, and where I’ve been before,” he said. “Not about your parents being white?” Diane asked, laughing. Teme’s involvement in multiple sports also has helped him acclimate himself to the American culture. He plays football and wrestles, without his prosthetic, and plays basketball with the prosthetic. “At games and tournaments we’ve had a lot of people come up and say that Teme has been their inspiration,” Scott said. Diane said she often hears other spectators commenting on Teme during games and meets. She listens quietly as they marvel at how Teme is able to engage without his left leg. Their comments are rarely negative. “I just want to say ‘Yeah, that’s my boy,’” she said.

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Jesse Knight is a parent coach with the Waterloo West High Junior Wahawk Club, where Teme has wrestled since the 2011-2012 season. He said the kids have all been very accepting of Teme, who has proved his dominance on the mat. “He’s taught the kids that they can do anything and not to be discouraged when things get tough,” Knight said. Knight said one of his most memorable experiences with Teme came at a meet at Don Bosco school in 2011. Teme was in the last match of the day, and all the kids had gathered around the mat to cheer him on. “It was probably 50 or 60 kids matside watching him there,” he said. “That was one of the first times he finished in first place.” Outside of athletics, Scott said the family has met several Ethiopian families who have served as a network of support for their family. He said not all adoptive families have had such great luck. Scott’s sister who lives in Colorado adopted a child from China. “In general, my sister has not found any positive response. But people from Ethiopia, it’s almost a relief, but it is a different country. It’s a third-world country with not as many opportunities,” Scott said. The family is doing their part through relationships with Ethiopian families in the Cedar Valley and trips to the kids’ native country. They want to make sure their children understand where they came from and to know that families gave them up so they could have a better life in Iowa. Diane said she takes great pride in hearing her children talk about their other family and their home country. “Sabrina came up to me one day and said, ‘Mom, my country is better than your country because it’s warm there and we can walk around barefoot all the time.’ Then she stopped and said ‘I’m from Africa, right?’” Diane said. “I think it is so great that they know they had another home before this was their home.” Text | EMILY CHRISTENSEN

Cedar Valley Inclusion

Top, Teme Larson, 13, takes a break from wrestling practice while his dad, Scott, looks on at the Wahawk Wrestling Club Feb. 7, 2013. Left, Teme Larson on the sidelines during football practice, Oct. 14, 2012. | 9

Cedar Valley Inclusion


Disability can’t stop Independence coffee shop owner from winning Diversity Award


rognoses can be wrong, as Emilea Hillman has just demonstrated. Hillman’s 4-year-old business in Independence, Em’s Coffee Shop, is one of three winners of the first Diversity and Inclusion Awards from the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber. Em’s won the award in the category that includes organizations that employ one to 150 employees. Wartburg College in Waverly won in the Medium category, with 151-500 employees. Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare-Iowa won in the Large category, with more than 500 employees. Hillman, 24, was born with a congenital abnormality called agenesis of the corpus callosum, which means that the structure that connects the two hemispheres of the brain, the corpus callosum, is either partially or completely absent. “Basically it interferes with everything she does,” said Tami

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Cedar Valley Inclusion

Emilea Hillman, left, and her mother, Tami Fenner, at Em’s Coffee Co. in Independence, which won one of three Diversity/Inclusion Awards that the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber presented March 7, 2013 at the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center in Waterloo. BRANDON POLLOCK / Courier Staff Photographer | 11

Cedar Valley Inclusion

Fenner, Hillman’s mother who also serves as a job coach at the coffee shop. “When she was born, the doctors told us she wouldn’t be able to walk, talk, sit up, maintain bodily function. However, they were wrong.” The business also employs two other workers with disabilities, Fenner said. “They always have a job coach, and they do all the functions,” Fenner said. “They make specialty drinks, the coffee, run the cash register, everything.” In spite of a few road bumps with her job coach, who pleaded guilty to theft and fraud for stealing money from the coffee shop, Hillman contunues to thrive. The espresso machine was rigged with special markings that help Hillman make drinks, and she does so with ease, Fenner said. “When it gets really busy, she’ll tend not to make the drinks, but she’ll ring up drinks at the register,” Fenner said. “Most of her customers are regulars, and they will help her.” The awards are part of the Alliance’s Cedar Valley Diversity and Inclusion Initiative, which, the organization says, “is designed to promote diversity, full inclusion and cultural competencies in business, as well as focus on the importance, impact and benefits to business of effective

diversity and inclusion practices. The awards will be presented as part of the Alliance’s annual celebration March 7, 2013 at the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center in Waterloo. Diversity/Inclusion Awards are designed to honor employers in the Cedar Valley who “have made significant achievements in championing inclusion and diversity in their businesses and organizations,” according to the Alliance. Five members of the Alliance’s Diversity/Inclusion Task Force served as the selection committee, having reviewed applications, monitored progress through numerous phases of the application process and conducted interviews with nominees. “They came to a site visit, and Em did it on her own; she did the interview all by herself,” Fenner said. It was not a new experience for the 24-year-old, who has spoken about her experience across the U.S., Fenner said. Winners were judged based on examples of how diversity has contributed to innovation; creative ways to educate and train staff in regards to diversity and inclusion; impact of diversity and inclusion efforts on staff demographics, promotions and retention; commitment

Wartburg College has been recognized for inclusion-focused initiatives. COURIER FILE PHOTO

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Cedar Valley Inclusion

to diversity and inclusion in the work environment and specific examples to display this commitment; and an organizational understanding of why diversity and inclusion are important. A key aspect to Hillman’s business is that she pays her employees wages they might not earn elsewhere, said Fenner, who, with her husband, Gordy, owns Verns True Value Hardware in Independence. “Em pays all her employees minimum wage, not subminimum wage,” Tami Fenner said. “If they worked at a Sheltered Workshop, they don’t get paid $7.25; they get $2, $3 or $4 an hour. They all interact with the public. They’re not hidden in the back.” Wartburg won its honor for an array of inclusionfocused initiatives that begin in the classroom, said Gloria Campbell, associate professor of business administration at the college. “There are a wide range of sophomore-level courses in diversity, and each has a different theme — it could be aging, poverty,” she said. “Then, a second course could be at the third- or fourth-year level that also focuses on an element of diversity.”

All Wartburg students take at least two such courses, plus a foreign language, said Campbell, who has taught a Working in a Diverse World class for more than a decade. “We’ve always focused on how we can convey to students the importance of diversity and inclusion,” Campbell said. The other winner, Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, also boasts of a multi-pronged diversity/inclusion program, CEO Jack Dusenberry said. “For us, it’s a matter of helping others in our community,” Dusenberry said. “There’s so many different religions, beliefs, etc., so it’s communication with families and our patients. We have lunch hours where different doctors speak about their upbringings.” Hospital cafeterias pick days to devote to certain ethnic cuisines throughout the year, Dusenberry said. “It’s education, having staff available to help the community in ways greater than health care,” he said. “It’s a lot of things I place under the diversity and inclusion heading.” Text | JIM OFFNER

Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare boasts a multi-pronged diversity/inclusion program. COURIER FILE PHOTO | 13

Cedar Valley Inclusion

DIVERSITY While Black Hawk County’s population is

85.6% white

according to the 2010 U.S. Census, only four of Iowa’s 99 counties are more racially diverse: Buena Vista, Crawford, Woodbury and Polk.

AFRICAN-AMERICANS Black Hawk County has the largest percentage of black or African-American residents of any county in Iowa at

8.9% according to the 2010 U.S. Census. Only 2.9% of the state’s population is black.

There are 11,640 residents of Black Hawk County who indicated they were black or African-American in 2010. That jumps to 13,368 people when including those who are black in combination with another race.

Black Hawk County’s total population dropped from

137,961 to 131,090 residents between the 1980 and 2010 U.S. Census reports. But the number of black or African-American residents grew from 8,595 to 11,640 during that period.

The city of Waterloo has the largest percentage of black or African-American residents of any other city in Iowa at



Only 2.1% of Cedar Falls residents are black, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

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Taking teamwork to new levels At John Deere, we believe in the ongoing exchange of ideas. That’s how we’ve become a global leader, known for innovative, breakthrough technologies and respected for our inclusive, employee focused culture. As we continue to strive for diversity and inclusion in our workplace, our community and with our dealers and suppliers, we do our best to make each life we touch, a better life overall. That’s what being a great global citizen is all about. It’s the way we are - and the way we’ve always been.

Cedar Valley Inclusion

Waterloo provides


for Burmese refugee family

Mai Ke, left, and Ma Tae, both of Waterloo, share their experiences since coming to the U.S. DAWN J. SAGERT / Courier Staff Photographer

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Cedar Valley Inclusion


t’s challenging for Burmese refugees Mai Ke and his wife Ma Tae to communicate in English. They have physically demanding jobs at Tyson Fresh Meats. And finding money in the budget for their four children’s Cedar Valley Catholic Schools tuition is an ongoing struggle. But difficulties the couple has faced in Waterloo are slight compared to what they’ve endured in the past. Persecution of their Catholic faith forced both to flee Burma, also known as Myanmar, to a refugee camp in neighboring Thailand where they lived for more than a decade. The couple met in the camp, got married and had children. The family was given the opportunity to immigrate to the United States. Tae and the children left the camp in 2009 and Ke left the next year, which set them on a path that led to Waterloo. They’ve found their adopted city to be a welcoming place to build new lives. That’s been elusive for Tae and Ke, 42. Tae was 15 and Ke was 20 when they arrived in Thailand with other family members. They were restricted from leaving the refugee camp, which contained about 700 families. Both had one year of education before arriving in the camp because they couldn’t attend school for free in Burma and their families were unable to pay for it. More

provided a wide range of assistance, from helping set up their household to translating mail. Tae and the couple’s children initially went to Phoenix when they arrived in the United States. After four months, they moved to Atlanta with Ke joining them at a later point. “In Georgia, we got a job at a chicken plant, but very far from home to there,” said Tae. They had to pay for transportation and the rent was high. As a result, “our income was very low.” In contrast, she said, “the Tyson job is very good income. We are happy to be working at the Tyson” plant. That’s not to minimize the difficulties of the work. Ke works on a line cutting slabs of meat while Tae does ham boning and cutting. Ke noted that injuries sometimes occur at Tyson, but the company takes care of workers when that happens. “We’ve got only Tyson, so we’ve got no choice,” he said. There are difficulties with the language barrier at work and other settings, like when medical care is needed. Ke and Tae are taking English language learner classes at Hawkeye Community College’s Metro Center to help overcome that problem. Tae also learns English through a class at Sacred Heart School. The couple’s two youngest daughters — Htwe Thandar,

“Waterloo is a quiet, peaceful place to stay and people are also nice to us,” said Tae, 36. “We feel like we’ve got freedom and peace.”

educated refugees led informal classes in math, English and Burmese at the camp. Ke and Tae are Kayaw, one of a number of ethnic groups from Burma in the camp that spoke different languages or dialects. John Lazum, Burmese immigrant minister at Sacred Heart Church, translated for the couple during an interview. A member of the Kachin ethnic group, Lazum’s native language is different from the couple but they communicate in Burmese. They’re living in the midst of a growing Burmese community that is springing up around Sacred Heart, driven by employment at Tyson. “Our best estimate right now is running in the range of 800, maybe 900 (Burmese people in Waterloo),” said Ann Grove, lead case manager for Black Hawk County Refugee Services. “It seems to change every day.” Lazum suggested “the number will be doubled in three to four months.” Typically, one family member arrives in Waterloo and brings others here after getting established. Ke and Tae have been joined by a larger family network here. “In Waterloo, we can reunite our family members, and so we are happy and feel at one and safe,” said Ke. “We got many relatives in Waterloo — my cousins, my aunties, my uncles,” added Tae, that provide mutual support. “When I need school transportation (for my children), they can help me.” Like many of the new Burmese arrivals, the family worships at Sacred Heart. Tae said the parish has

9, and Su Wei, 12 — are third- and fifth-graders at Sacred Heart. Their other daughter, Me Me, is a sixth-grader at Blessed Maria Assunta Pallotta Middle School and their son, Yan Naing Oo, is a ninth-grader at Columbus High School. They are among 108 Burmese children attending Cedar Valley Catholic Schools. That includes 14 preschoolers at Sacred Heart and another 47 in kindergarten through fifth grade. Blessed Maria enrolls 20 Burmese students, and Columbus has 27. Waterloo Community Schools enrolls 26 K-12 Burmese refugee students, according to an official. That includes 15 at elementary schools, four at middle schools and seven at high school. “Sacred Heart School system is very good for my children,” said Tae. “But the problem is tuition.” Lazum explained that the refugee students get tuition assistance from the Archdiocese of Dubuque that covers a portion of the cost. But with multiple children, families like theirs still pay a significant portion of their income. Nonetheless, Ke and Tae are set on keeping their children in the Catholic schools. “If we send my children to the public schools, my children say they won’t be happy,” said Tae. “In my opinion, my children should go to our Catholic school,” added Ke. “They can learn religious (beliefs), our church teaching.” Text | ANDREW WIND | 17

Cedar Valley Inclusion

Burmese interpreter Tun Than, center, holds his 2-year-old daughter, Lily Than, with his wife, Ku Ma, left, and Angela Graham, right, at his Evansdale home. Graham, a public health nurse with the county health department, is active with the Burmese community. TIFFANY RUSHING / Courier Staff Photographer


Burma Iowa Friends helps immigrants make transition into community


he first people from Burma were mostly men drawn to Waterloo by jobs at Tyson Fresh Meats. Now they are being joined by wives and families. Some estimate the Burmese population in the Cedar Valley has swelled to 800. “The initial 150 or so, I knew them by name, I knew where they lived, I was involved in their life every day,” said Rick Rustad, a chaplain at Tyson, which employs about 350 Burmese. “I had a good handle on where they were and what they needed.” But as numbers grew, Tyson staff and others couldn’t keep up with the demand for assistance, prompting the mobilization of several agencies, religious organizations and volunteers. Then, Burma Iowa Friends formed to pull everyone together. 18 |

Beth Cox, a member of the Black Hawk County Board of Health, initiated the organization in December 2011 after hearing about concerns through the county health department. About a dozen people — occasionally including city councilmen — meet monthly to swap updates and share happenings. “When we saw such a large influx in a pretty short amount of time, the people who were working to provide support could easily become burned out,” Rustad said. “BIF became a place where we could support each other and realize we’re not alone in our different areas of helping this new community. “We’re talking about the frustrations, the victories, the successes and better coordinating our efforts and getting the word out,” he added. As part of a recruitment package offered in 2010 and

Cedar Valley Inclusion

2011, Tyson provided the early newcomers with a set of dishes, cleaning supplies, personal toiletries, an air mattress and a pillow. Staff at the meatpacking plant aided with securing housing, obtaining state ID cards, setting up bank accounts, arranging health assessments and learning where to buy groceries. Employees were transported to and from work for a few weeks until groups could put their money together to buy a car. However, that merely got them started. Transportation remains a major obstacle. Then there are language barriers even among the refugees who come from several Burmese states including Karenni, Karen and Chin. Natives of each state speak a different language, and different dialects of each language exist. Rustad estimates as many as 10 languages are spoken here. BIF gives members an idea of who’s doing what, and has built a network to bridge gaps and make dealing with issues easier. “If there’s a problem that’s recognized in one place, and there’s a solution somewhere else, we’re kind of talking about that to get people to the right places,” Cox said.

Transition takes time

Rustad recalled helping a man whose Iowa license got suspended because of an unpaid fine in another state. One group called after their home was burglarized, but when police found the teenagers responsible, the residents were reluctant to press charges because they thought that meant paying money. Others have required assistance with court cases, car-related problems or insurance claims following an accident. He noted Tyson chaplain services are available to any employee or their family members. That could involve pastoral care or simply navigating life in America. “It’s like establishing a colony of people here with a lot of needs and language barriers, and it could become overwhelming and taxing,” he added. “But then to come together and know that we have a growing number of Americans here in Waterloo that are helping just really gives you courage to go on.” At Sacred Heart Catholic Church, where a large number of Burmese attend, Sister Kathleen Grace helps with applying for green cards, which allow foreign nationals to live and work permanently in the United States. Burmese people began coming to the church as early as May 2010 and now make up about half of the congregation, Grace said. The number of Burmese children enrolled at Sacred Heart School also is increasing, she added. Earlier in the school year, emails circulated about needing bus transportation. Gini Berg, a retired University of Northern Iowa professor, fell in love with the Burmese culture when she traveled there years ago. She began collecting furniture UNI students left behind in the spring and prepared taxes out of her home for no charge in 2011. She later

relocated her tax service to Sacred Heart. BIF’s collaboration also has created an awareness. Both the Waterloo and Cedar Falls branches of the American Association of University Women are now teaching English using Rosetta Stone, a computer software program, as many Burmese never attended school in their home country and are intimidated by formal classes. Hawkeye Community College Metro Campus has seen an increasing number of Burmese pursuing their GED, the equivalent of a high school diploma. The U.S. Committee for Refugees and ImmigrantsDes Moines recently opened a sub-office at First United Methodist Church on West Fourth Street, across from Sacred Heart, through the Black Hawk County Refugee Services Program. It serves secondary migrants, referring to those who migrate from the community they originally resettled in when coming to the United States. Cox hopes to partner with staff there to further ease the transition and find jobs in addition to Tyson.

One-stop shop

Angela Graham, a public health nurse with the county health department, is notified about new arrivals and passes along needs she encounters during home visits. She has been active with the Burmese community since the beginning and appreciates the one-stop shop established by BIF. “I can send out maybe one email to one person about the things we need, and other people can help deliver those,” she said. “We have agencies that can sometimes get things to people, but they usually have to go there and sign up,” she added. “Ours is a lot more informal. We see a need and take care of it.” Graham devotes much of her personal time, too. When Tun Than and his wife, Ku Ma, asked her to stay with them at the hospital for the delivery of what would become the first Burmese baby born in Waterloo, she did. Lily, 2, calls her Grandma. Graham has since documented the births of other babies in photos. Tun, an interpreter at Tyson, also serves as eyes and ears for community needs. Things are getting better, he said. “Right now the Burmese group is bigger, so they are learning,” said Tun, who arrived in Waterloo in September 2010. “They’re helping each other.” Seeing people achieve their goals and dare to dream is an inspiration, Tun said. He pointed to the progression of his own life. He and his wife had $400 to their name when Ku Ma insisted they spend half on a camera for their daughter’s birth. “Finally, I said, ‘OK,’ because I wanted to have a picture, too, for remembrance,” he said. “I had only $200 left when I moved over here.” Text | TINA HINZ | 19

Cedar Valley Inclusion


showcases Cedar Valley diversity

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Cedar Valley Inclusion

From left to right, Tyler Anderson, 6, Cameron Roberts, 6, Naomi Feldman, Peter Roberts, Adaris Washington, 12, and Brandon Williams 15, of the UNI Community Drum Circle perform during Culture Fest March 29, 2012. COURIER FILE PHOTO | 21

Cedar Valley Inclusion


o get a glimpse of the Cedar Valley’s diversity, look no further than the thriving cultural event held every spring. The sixth annual CultureFest will take place April 25, 2013 from 5:30 to7:30 p.m. at the Waterloo Center for the Arts, 225 Commercial St. The adjacent Phelps Youth Pavilion will be closed during the free festival with the exception of the Junior Art Gallery, where people will be able to see a new exhibit. “How I define diversity is similar to what I think about when I look at CultureFest,” said Mickeye Johnson, a member of the festival’s planning committee and director of Classic Upward Bound at the University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Urban Education. “I look at it as the rainbow and how everybody (from the different cultures) complements each other. ... With CultureFest, that’s the beauty of it.” Before this year, the event has been held in March. But between Waterloo Community Schools’ spring break and parent conferences as well as the center’s schedule, “it was just pushed back farther into the spring,” said Joanna Kramer, co-chair of the event and public programs coordinator at the Waterloo Center for the Arts. “We obviously want to make it easier for Waterloo Schools students to attend.” The district is a sponsor of the event. As in past years, the festival will include performances and demonstrations by groups representing a range of cultures and ethnicities. Participants will include area youths, college students and other Cedar Valley residents. Organizers are still accepting registrations from those interested in being a part of the festival. Information can be found on the school district’s website at www.waterloo. “It’s going to kind of have similar components that

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we’ve had in the past,” said Kramer. There will be special performances and demonstrations, information booths, and international food sampling. “The big, big thing everyone seems to love is the food sampling,” she said. Organizers are expecting big crowds for the festival. “It’s a community event, and it keeps getting bigger and bigger each year. And we want to try and include as many people in our community as possible,” said Kramer. “We’re very pleased with the number of people who show up, the participants as well as the people who come to observe,” said Johnson. However, he added, “I think it’s going to be to the point that we may have to look at how can we expand the venue, maybe going out to the amphitheater.” Utilizing the center “continues to make a lot of sense to us as organizers and planners,” said committee member Michelle Temeyer, director of Iowa State University’s Black Hawk County Extension. “The center is such a cultural mecca.” Temeyer looks at the event as a way to “share and communicate in a fun and lively atmosphere. I think there was a real need for different cultures to come together,” said she, when the festival started in 2008. The event encompasses Center for the Arts galleries, where the annual All-School Art Exhibition will be on display. The exhibit includes works of art by K-12 students in the Waterloo public and parochial schools. Unlike past years, though, it will open prior to the festival on April 6. The event will serve as the exhibit’s open house. Area art teachers will be recognized “for exposing their students and children to arts and culture, which is very important,” said Kramer. Text | ANDREW WIND

Above, Astrella Tanguma sings traditional Mexican songs as part of Amigos Del Mariachi; opposite left, dancers dive a Kathak performance; right, Rodrigo Sanguino, 4, reacts as Lauren Hartman of the Multicultural Teaching Alliance at UNI holds up Rodrigo’s handmade spoon puppet during Culture Fest, March 29, 2012. COURIER FILE PHOTOS

The sixth annual Culture Fest takes place April 25, 2013, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Waterloo Center for the Arts, 225 Commercial St.


There are

297 Black Hawk County

residents who identified themselves as Native American or Native Alaskan in the 2010 U.S. Census, which represents about 0.2% of the total county population. Statewide, only 0.8% of the population is Native American. | 23

Cedar Valley Inclusion


New generation at Tri-City Clothing

Tri-City Clothing principals Renee and Harry Carson, daughter Shatora Carson and her daughter Trinity Jones, 4, as shown here in their store on Logan Avenue in Waterloo. MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Editor

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Cedar Valley Inclusion | 25

Cedar Valley Inclusion


ne has to look inside the oyster to find the pearl. The same is true in any neighborhood in Waterloo. Take the several blocks of Logan Avenue that runs parallel to U.S. Highway 63. Nestled in that offthe-beaten-path neighborhood is a family run business — Tri-City Clothing, 713 Logan Ave. Make no mistake, its customers know where to find it — and have for 31 years. It is a “destination” business. It all began when founder Harry Carson, a traveling apparel salesman, decided to stop traveling. “He opened this up as a warehouse originally,” his wife, Renee Carson, said. “Then people started coming in. Every time he was

around at her parents’ heels as a little girl — just as her daughter, Trinity Jones, 4, now does at hers. “I’ve always wanted to run the family business,” she said. “I’ve always been into clothing and fashion. I was doing a little bit on the side in Omaha, then this opportunity presented itself.” “We’re working on a website, finally. It’s almost done. We’re on Facebook and Twitter. I’m just coming in and trying to make things more modern and up to date,” she said. Men’s suits and fashion apparel lines also have been expanded. “It was part of it, now it’s a bigger part” of the store’s inventory, Renee said. It’s the kind if clothing one

“I’ve always wanted to run the family business” in here, somebody would come in. Then he decided to open it up as a store.” The building, believed to be about a century old, previously housed a barber shop. Now the business, which has a considerable inventory of athletic and men’s fashion apparel, plans to gradually expand and utilize more space within the building and add a women’s boutique, said the Carsons’ daughter, Shatora. She is an East High School and University of Iowa graduate who previously taught kindergarten in Omaha, Neb. She’s returned here to help with, and eventually run, the family business, where she trooped

may have to go to a larger city, like Chicago, to find. Business is good, Renee said. “We can’t complain. The customers are very diverse. We have a wide variety of customers. We have a lot of shipping out of Waterloo, too,” to places as distant as Arizona and Hawaii. “Some of it is Facebook, but some of it was people who lived in Waterloo and might have relocated. We still have those customers who call back and place orders,” Shatora said. “I think we have more of a customer base; more customers than we had,” Renee said. “A lot of it is word

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WE CAN’T COMPLAIN. THE CUSTOMERS ARE VERY DIVERSE. WE HAVE A WIDE VARIETY OF CUSTOMERS. -SHATORA CARSON of mouth. And a lot of people wonder why we’ve stayed in this location as long as we’ve been. It’s working. Right here, it’s working. “We really haven’t had any major, major problems over here,” Renee added. “Everyone thinks because of the area, and because Logan has a bad name, that we would have a lot of problems. We actually don’t.” She is a co-chair of the Common Ground Neighborhood Association. Shatora added, “My father knows this area and the people in this area and he helps a lot of them out. It’s like a family-oriented neighborhood. A lot of people know him.” While the closing of nearby Longfellow Elementary School was a disappointment, the school district is maintaining the building. Long term, Shatora said, the Carsons want to upgrade the building appearance as more space is utilized. “A lot of TLC,” she said. “There will be a big difference in the store. We’re doing renovations all the way around, when we get time and it kind of slows down. You’ll see a lot different things within this next year — bit by bit and piece by piece, just working. The plans we have for it are going to be really nice.” Harry Carson said it’s great to have another generation willing to run the business. “We’ve been in this location for a long time,” he said. “We like the location OK. We’d like to do some improvements. It’s close to downtown. We know everybody. It’s a central location. People know about us, especially the older generation. I’ve got people that come in from out of town; I ship to them. “We do all right. Some of the younger ones come along, they don’t know like the older ones do,” he said. But Shatora is taking care of that.

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Top goals for UNI’s Campus Coalition


ducators at the University of Northern Iowa feel strongly that preparing students for living and working in today’s environment is more than just about reading books, writing papers and giving speeches. It’s also about functioning in an increasingly shrinking world comprised of multi-faceted human backgrounds and causes. Goal 4 of the university’s 2010-2015 strategic plan is to “Create and maintain an inclusive educational environment that prepares students to thrive in a diverse global environment.” “Diversity, in every form, benefits all members of the UNI community, especially students,” retiring University of Northern Iowa President Ben Allen said recently. “Diversity in and out of the classroom allows for an enhanced educational experience. Additionally, a diverse network of peers prepares students for the real world, which happens to be far more diverse than the state of Iowa.” In facilitating that effort, the university has embraced the National Coalition Building Institute, a non-profit leadership training organization based in Washington, D.C., which was founded in 1984. Its mission is to “help eliminate prejudice and intergroup conflict in communities throughout the world.” Provost Gloria Gibson introduced NCBI to UNI

nearly four years ago and asked for volunteers to become involved. The UNI initiative is called the Campus Coalition Builders. Victoria DeFrancisco, professor of communications studies, is the coordinator. “I’ve been here (UNI) 22 years, and I have been on many diversity initiatives on campus,” DeFrancisco said. “For some reason they haven’t lasted. The people who run the (NCBI) workshops are all volunteers. I get release time because I do administrative work, but the people who go through the training — a minimum of 30 hours of training to do a workshop — that’s a lot of investment. The goal is to make it more a part of the institution, to make it a part of campus life.” NCBI’s motto is “Every issue counts.” No type of “ism” — racism, classism, sexism, for example — takes priority over another. NCBI’s workshop model focuses on sharing personal stories of discrimination and mistreatment without shame or blame, and on building allies in other groups so those oppressed do not feel isolated. “This is a program that’s all about the ‘isms’,” DeFrancisco said. “We try to talk about and value our differences around physical disability, social class, sexual orientation, gender and educational background. I think the unique thing about NCBI is it doesn’t concentrate on just one issue, it’s very inclusive.

Opposite: Members of the National Coalition Building Institute Team at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, clockwise from front left, Doug Mupasiri, Victoria DeFrancisco, Harry Brod, Melissa Payne, Karen Mitchell and Michelle Byers. BRANDON POLLOCK / Courier Staff Photographer | 29

Cedar Valley Inclusion

“The other is its very welcoming approach. (The on diversity and acceptance. I saw it as a great workshops) create an atmosphere where it’s OK opportunity to build my own ideas and exercises to talk about your own baggage and how you got to use in the future as I also plan to facilitate it and how you can bring about change. It’s done workshops for middle school, high school and in a very loving, supporting way.” college-age individuals.” NCBI has about 50 city-based leadership Economics major Walter Abrego said, “Being teams, 30 organization-based leadership teams part of a minority (Hispanic/Latino), diversity on and more than 60 college/university-based teams, campus is really important for me. All the things known as Campus Affiliates. UNI became the I learned during the training are skills that I first campus affiliate in the state and has been can apply during my everyday interaction with followed by the University of Iowa and Upper others. Also, since I am a leader in my community, Iowa University. I wanted to learn how to deal with issues that UNI’s CCB team meets on a monthly basis to can affect other people in my community. “practice our skills and hone the workshops,” “The training taught me to appreciate people’s DeFrancisco said. “The goal, ultimately, is more individuality and to get rid of stereotypes in order than workshops. You learn to be a better person. The next how to run meetings, how step I am planning on taking you run your classrooms. It’s with NCBI is becoming a how you greet a customer trainer.” or a client in the library. It’s DeFrancisco said CCB has about being aware, trying about 15 active members to create a place where the at the present time. Nearly customer feels welcome. 30 people are waiting to be “It’s affected the way I trained. teach and the way I try to be “I think of it as growing a social justice advocate.” the choir,” she said. “You The initiative began as a don’t want to force people to pilot program in academic come. That’s the worst kind affairs, with the faculty, and of situation to make people student affairs. Last January open to learning. Instead, you President Allen announced invite people who want to it was going campus-wide. learn more about it and who A recent workshop was want to become a part of the attended by representatives solution. “ from catering, and residence The coalition is expanding life, along with students and its initiative in other ways. faculty. Jim Loewen, a published “The RAs in the dorms author and academic in all went through six hours diversity, will speak March 4 of training in August,” at 7 p.m. in Lang Auditorium. DeFrancisco said. “That was The presentation is open to -WALTER ABREGO fabulous to have people who the public. He also will lead are touching students’ lives a workshop with faculty. In on a day-to-day basis to participate. In May we addition, a group of students attended a national do the same thing with the summer orientation White Privilege Conference in Minneapolis. staff. We have a new Cornerstone course for first“Qualifying the success of such a program can year students. Some of our members teach that be difficult,” President Allen said. “However, what course and would like to find a way to connect is asked of each participant upon completion of more with that. Student government has been the workshop is to re-enter the UNI community really good about getting their administrative being able to recognize the multiple aspects of staff in the workshop.” diversity and more specifically, their attitudes Public relations major Katie Grassi recently and actions about themselves and others different attended a workshop. from them. “I wanted to get involved with CCB because I “Hopefully, their experiences in CCB will give really enjoy diversity work and being involved rise to engaging, proactive conversations with in training with that topic,” she explained. “I their peers regarding diversity on campus.” also plan to become a public speaker, focusing








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Cedar Valley Inclusion


94,028 52,328

The 2011 African-American population in Iowa. African-Americans constitute 3.1% of the state’s total population. In 1980, African-Americans made up 1.4% of the state’s total population.

The numeric change in the African-American population from 1980 to 2011. This is a 125.5% increase for the period.


168,721 The projected AfricanAmerican population of Iowa as 2040. According to Woods & Pool Economics Inc., AfricanAmericans will constitute 5% of the state’s total population.

The number of African-American families in 2011 who reside in Iowa. Of these families, 69.5% include their own children under 18 years of age.





of African-American families with children who live with both parents in 2011 compared to 70.1% for the state of Iowa. In 1980 this percentage was 41.7 compared to the state of Iowa’s 83.6%. increase in the number of African-American families in the state of Iowa from 1980 to 2011.


Percentage of the African- American population under age 5, in 2011. AfricanAmericans have a higher concentration of preschoolers among the population than the state as a whole (6.5 percent). In 1980 the percentage of the African-American population under age 5 was 10.9. | 31

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Bosnian craftsman develops



he new home is nearly complete. The floors are carpeted, the walls painted and Senad Dizdarevic is working on final touches — a last piece of trim here, cabinet hardware there. Walking around the nearly completed fivebedroom house in Cedar Falls, the builder can’t help but make constant checks on tiny details. He runs his finger down the edge of a granite countertop, peers up at the trim around a closet door. Dizdarevic is a craftsman, mastering the work and the ethic passed down to him by his father decades ago in Bosnia. He came to Waterloo in 2004 after working with his father, then fleeing the war-torn country to work in Germany for five years. Eventually he landed in Waterloo and picked up a job working for Trost Design. A few years later, Dizdarevic went to work for Prairie Cabinet Co., honing his specialty carpentry skills before venturing out on his own. By the time he started his own company, Dizdarevic Construction, he had a host of clients ready. It was the steady demands for his services that spurred him to become an entrepreneur in the first place. Much of that demand filtered through the Bosnian community in the early going. “There’s almost 4,000 Bosnians in Waterloo. They almost all have American friends. They would ask where can I find a good carpenter. I kept having people ask me to do work,” Dizdarevic said. Dizdarevic relishes the opportunity to solve problems for clients. He takes satisfaction out

of designing and building just the right custom cabinet or bar or you name it for his customers. “I was busy almost from the first day,” Dizdarevic said, noting that he still gets 90 percent of his business from word of mouth. “I would start to get a lot of calls, from, say, someone I built a fireplace for and they would want a table or a bed or doors.” Dizdarevic said people’s tastes in home finishes differ around the world. For example, in Germany he found a preference for laminate cabinets with more color than is found here. He says choosing cabinets there is more like choosing a car. There are a wide variety of colors, including those with metallic flake patterns. The heart and soul of Dizdarevic’s business is remodeling jobs, but in the past few years he’s taken to building homes on his own. For the most part, it fills a void in the winter and makes sure his four employees and stable of subcontractors keep busy. Much of Dizdarevic’s work is done in a workshop in Waterloo. That’s where he crafts cabinets and other items before bringing them out to the homes where they will be used. He has about 10 designs for cabinets, not like the scores of choices from the manufacturers. However, Dizdarevic hasn’t run into a situation where he can’t do what the customer wants. He said it’s all about pleasing people. “I always say to my customers, ‘no problem, whatever you want,’” Dizdarevic said. Text | JON ERICSON

Opposite: Craftsman Senad Dizdarevic has built a carpentry business and home construction business since arriving in Waterloo from Bosnia via Germany. DAWN J. SAGERT / Courier Staff Photographer | 33

Cedar Valley Inclusion


Pakistani doctor and his family developing close ties with community


efore settling in the Cedar Valley, everything Dr. Kamran Karimi knew about Iowa he learned from the 1989 Oscar-nominated film “Field of Dreams.” In the film, Iowa is described as heaven. For Karimi, Iowa feels like home. “It’s like, ‘come on in and take a seat.’ There is a Midwestern hospitality,” he said. Karimi, who specializes in general, vascular and endovascular surgery at Covenant Medical Center in Waterloo, attended Aga Khan University Medical College in his native Pakistan. He moved to West Virginia in 2000, where he spent six years as a categorical general surgery resident and performed duties as the academic chief resident for the general surgery residency training program. From there, he headed to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for a two-year fellowship in vascular and endovascular surgery. In the fall of 2009, Karimi and his wife, Dr. Sadia Ali, an infectious disease specialist, moved to the Cedar Valley to practice medicine with Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, which operates Covenant, Sartori Memorial Hospital in Cedar Falls, Mercy Hospital in Oelwein, Covenant Clinics in a number of area communities, and Covenant Cancer Treatment Center and Kimball Ridge Center, both in Waterloo. “Growing up in Pakistan, you have close ties to your neighbors and friends,” Karimi said. “I have felt that way here.” Karimi and his wife, who is on extended maternity leave, have four children, ages 8, 5, 2 and 6 months. “We have a very busy house,” Karimi said. The couple’s older daughters, Shanze, 8, and Zara, 5, are in gymnastics training at Black Hawk Gymnastics and are learning to play musical instruments. The family likes to visit local parks when the weather cooperates, and Karimi enjoys the Cedar Valley Trails system. “It’s a very nice place to raise a family,” Karimi said. “People are very open and accepting.” Karimi said the Cedar Valley is one of the best-kept secrets of the Midwest in terms of diversity. “People ask me what it is like, and if you are looking from the outside you would think it would not be diversified. But there are Bosnians, Latinos and other ethnicities here. This is an area waiting to be discovered.” The ethnic diversity of the food in the Cedar Valley is “amazing,” Karimi said, noting his family enjoys dining at Golden China and My Thai Cuisine in Waterloo, as well as Montage in Cedar Falls. The welcoming nature of the Cedar Valley hit home for Karimi during a trip to New York, where he found its residents to be less-than-friendly. “I have nightmares about New Yorkers,” he joked. “I have been completely spoiled by Midwesterners.” Text | META HEMENWAY-FORBES

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Dr. Kamran Karimi | 35

Cedar Valley Inclusion

Dr. Kamran Karimi and his wife, Dr. Sadia Ali, left, an infectious disease specialist, who is on extended maternity leave, have four children, ages 8, 5, 2 and 6 months. The couple’s older daughters, Shanze, 8, and Zara, 5, are in gymnastics training. MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Editor

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The percentage of Latino and Hispanic residents in Black Hawk County is below many other counties in Iowa. Black Hawk ranks

There are




out of


counties in the percentage of Latino population.

Black Hawk County residents who identified themselves as Latino or Hispanic in the 2010 U.S. Census, which is



of the total county population. That is a 400% increase from the 1980 Census, which identified 946 Latino residents.

Some 5.6% of Waterloo’s population is Latino or Hispanic compared to 2% in Cedar Falls. Five percent of the state’s total population is Latino.





of Black Hawk County’s Latino population indicate they are of Mexican descent. About 4% are Puerto Rican and less than 1% are Cuban.

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Cedar Valley Inclusion

Aaron Richards, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, uses his love and knowledge of computers to do data entry, records updates and mailings for CUNA Mutual. BRANDON POLLOCK / Courier Staff Photographer


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Cedar Valley Inclusion


iring a new employee involves an element of the unknown for both the employer and the worker. Both parties hope the arrangement will work out and inevitably, time will tell. Last August, Aaron Richards, 20, went to work parttime at CUNA Mutual Group in Waverly. Managers there consider his employment a resounding success. Richards uses his love and knowledge of computers to do data entry, records updates and mailings for CUNA Mutual, a business that provides financial services to credit unions, their members and customers worldwide. The Waverly site is responsible primarily for life and health insurance products sold to credit union members. Richards’ mother, Kelly, is thrilled her son is paired with a business more interested in her son’s abilities, rather than his disability. “We can’t say enough nice things about CUNA,” Kelly said. “We knew he had some very special skills. It was just a matter of finding the right employer.” Richards, of rural Fairbank, has Asperger’s syndrome. The disorder is considered a high-functioning form of autism, according to Kelly and the U.S. Library of Medicine. Individuals with Asperger’s often possess above-average intelligence and thrive within a structured environment. They can also tend to hyper-focus in a specific areas of interest and communication, and social situations can present challenges. “It has to be very visual. It has to be very concrete,” said Kelly, adding that her son is very good at movie and music trivia and enjoys writing and computers. “It’s just a matter of finding the strengths and building off of them,” she added. Inclusion Connection, a Waverly-based nonprofit, connected Richards with a job opportunity at CUNA Mutual. Inclusion Connection works to find employment and other opportunities for individuals with disabilities and receives referrals from Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services. Kayleen Symmonds, a consultant with Inclusion Connection, sat down with CUNA Mutual management to discuss Richards’ abilities, including strong technical skills and computer savvy. CUNA Mutual compared their companies needs with Richards’ potential and recognized a possible match. “I knew Aaron was very skilled in the area of computers,” Symmonds said. CUNA Mutual found the input of Symmonds and Inclusion Connection to be a valuable resource. “That’s a big first step in making this a success,” said Jim Denholm of employee relations at CUNA Mutual in Waverly. Richards works as a data processing clerk in service administration. He is considered an intern at CUNA and also takes online information technology classes to further his education. Richards has not only met expectations, he’s exceeded them and has been able to take on more responsibilities, according to his managers. Richards’ timeliness and

attention to rules and details are admired. “He’s just very focused and driven, and he processes accurately and effectively,” said Brenda Heineman, a service administrator and manager. “He’s very efficient.” Richards not only gets to experience the pride that comes with employment, he gets to exercise his passion: computers. “I do a little computer data I enjoy,” Richards said. Denholm said its important for all employees to feel included and recognized for their on-the-job abilities regardless of their religion, gender, race, or even town or family of origin. He noted CUNA Mutual has an inclusion and diversity committee. “We want everyone to feel included at CUNA Mutual because when we have a more inclusive community here or company, we all feel better about working here and we feel more engagement toward our employer,” Denholm said. Being an inclusive employee means being thoughtful and flexible about how something as simple as the structure of an interview or new employee orientation, Denholm said. The company is open to creating individual training programs. If a prospective employee can perform the work, CUNA Mutual is willing to create a conducive atmosphere. “We are willing to invest the time, a little bit extra time,” Denholm added. Symmonds continues to act as Richards’ advocate and serves as a liaison should any concerns or questions arise. “I act basically as a second set of ears and an oversight,” Symmonds said. Creating a welcoming work environment means communicating with other employees. Symmonds encourages workers not to make assumptions about a person’s abilities based on their disability, manner or appearance. Richards’ experience at CUNA Mutual, she said, illustrates that in the end, a person’s similarities and commonalities stand out more than their differences. Fellow employees have responded positively toward having Richards on their team, according to Lisa McCampbell, a manager at CUNA Mutual. She said Richards regularly contributes to departmental meetings. During a going away-party for another staff member, he was quick to offer a comical quip of advice. “His positive energy and attitude makes us laugh,” McCampbell said. Few perplexing situations have come up. Once a colleague noticed Richards fidgeted during meetings, McCampbell said. Instead of assuming movement equaled disengagement — he retains information well — staff gave Richards a digital device to serve as a quiet outlet for his need to move. Denholm and Symmonds encourage employers to simply be open. The goal isn’t to force a fit but to explore possibilities. “They’ll know if it is a match or not,” Denholm said. Text | KAREN BUSHANAM | 39

Cedar Valley Inclusion

Covenant doctor gets by on a little help from



fter only a handful of months in the Cedar Valley, Tallix has already made a name for himself. The 5-year-old black German shepherd had welcome posters plastered throughout Covenant Medical Center where he spends most of his days beside his owner, Dr. Gael Yonnet, a new Covenant Clinic physiatrist. People stop him in the hallways. They stop him at the store. They all want to see the animal that has been trained to serve Yonnet, a paraplegic for six years. “There is not an hour that passes by where people, even in the community when I am out shopping, don’t stop and say ‘Oh, is that Tallix the dog at Covenant? I saw his picture. Can I pet him?’” Yonnet said. “It’s pretty amazing. It enables me to meet a lot of people, which is fantastic.” Yonnet said in addition to being a companion, Tallix is able to pull his wheelchair when he is not strong enough to do so. “If I get weak or we have to go uphill or if I have to go across an airport, or even if there is carpet that is very thick, it is exhausting to go across,” Yonnet said. “I have a leash I attach to his harness and he pulls me through. Most of what he does is muscle.” Service dogs are also trained to open doors and pick up items off the floor so their owners don’t risk falling out of their chairs. More importantly, though, Tallix serves as an icebreaker. “When you have a disability people don’t know how to approach you. So, for children especially, they may be off to the side of the school because kids don’t know how to interact with them. But if they have a dog they are like the superstar of the school and that is what we want,” Yonnet said. “People will come and talk to you about the dog and then they will know how to interact.” Yonnet, a native of Bordeaux, France, came to the United States 18 years ago to study at the University of Utah School of Medicine. He was in his senior year of medical school when he fell and broke his neck during a snowboarding competition. He spent two months in the hospital where he learned how to adapt to his new life in a wheelchair. When he was released he went back to school, finished his degree and began interning. “I was always interested in neurosurgery or neurology, and then when I got paralyzed I learned about physical medicine and rehabilitation,” he said. “I was on their ward in their hospital learning to live with a spinal chord 40 |

injury and a wheelchair. I didn’t know much about the speciality until I experienced it myself.” Eventually, Yonnet completed a residency program in physical medicine and rehabilitation at University of Utah University Hospital. Jill Groth, Covenant’s director of clinic operations, said having Tallix, and Yonnet, on board has gone very well. “Tallix is the first service dog for the WheatonFranciscan operation in three states. He is our premiere service dog,” Groth said. Groth has good things to say about Yonnet, too. “He has a special relationship with the patients and their families. His voice of reassurance and compassion carries a special meaning given what he has gone through personally. His story of resilience is a good message for the community.” Since his accident, Yonnet has found ways to recapture his adventurous spirit. He has climbed Utah mountains using an adaptive bike. He plays tennis, sit skis, races marathons and plans to learn more about kayaking now that he is in the Cedar Valley. He helped make Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort in Utah one of the most accessible resorts in North America, and he hopes to incorporate some of those programs here. “Where I came from we had a group of people taking care of activities for the disabled. ... We played tennis and rode bikes and had workout sessions,” he said. “I would love to develop something like that here. If we have enough I would like to start a racing team so we could all get handcycles and do marathons together.” Medically, Yonnet also hopes to translate his passion for helping those with multiple sclerosis into a center that would help patients better manage or even prevent symptoms. Yonnet said he was originally drawn to Iowa because the state’s MS patients are considered to be under served. “A good friend of mine had MS, and her and her husband were very instrumental in me getting back on my feet after my accident. I always liked MS because it is a disease that if you diagnose it well and treat it you can potentially prevent disability altogether,” he said. “I think that a lot of the patients thought that these are my symptoms and that is just my lot in life without understanding that the symptoms can be addressed. People here are very strong and deal with the problems, but they don’t have to. We can change that.” Text | EMILY CHRISTENSEN

Cedar Valley Inclusion

Dr. Gael Yonnet, who uses a wheelchair, and his service dog Tallix, the first service dog at Covenant Medical Center. Dr. Gael Yonnet, right, discusses patient Carolyn Goodsell’s progress after both knee replacements at Covenant Medical Center, as Tallix stays at his master’s side. COURIER FILE PHOTOS | 41

Cedar Valley Inclusion

Julia Aguilar teaches an English as a second language class to Hispanic women and men at the Black Hawk County YWCA in Waterloo. MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Editor

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Foundation-funded programs open



ondays and Thursdays are a bilingual beehive of activity at the Black Hawk County YWCA. A large group of 10-20 Latina women and some Latino men gather in an upperlevel classroom to learn, practice and polish their English skills. But it’s more than a language class. It’s a support system for those attending. They share experiences. They provide mutual support. They learn about the cultural nuances of their new home in the Cedar Valley and where to go to find help from a variety of community resources. Child care is provided for families. On Thursdays, their kids can swim in the YWCA pool. Angela Escobar has started her own housekeeping business and wants to better communicate with her customers. “I need more practice in English,” she said. “I’m no good driving. I get scared. But now I need driving” for her business and language skills go with that. Dora Jaimes said improved language skills will help her at work. “I work removing asbestos,” she said, from commercial and institutional buildings. Her husband of 10 years, Angel, works for the same firm. Sometimes, she jokes, people who don’t know the couple will presume Angel has the greater mastery of the language, but Dora helps him along. She hopes to advance herself with language skills, “Maybe applying for supervisor,” she said with a laugh. “They’re my heroes. Because they speak two languages and I don’t,” YWCA director Cindy Mohr said. It’s called “Latinas Moving Forward” in English, or “Latinas Hacia Adelante” in Spanish. In whichever tongue, is an opportunity for selfimprovement and economic advancement for a substantial part of the Cedar Valley community.

Foundation worthy

It’s one of the YWCA’s Latino services, and

one of the programs financially supported by the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa for the purpose of promoting empowerment and inclusion in the community at large. “We need to address the entirety of our community, and that’s all the diversity that comes with a community like the Cedar Valley and Northeast Iowa,” Community Foundation program director Tom Wickersham said. The YWCA’s Latino Support Services is a cause “the Community Foundation finds extremely important to invest in,” foundation communications director Jennifer Jones Ruiz said, receiving a grant of nearly $40,000. The foundation also contributed $100,000 to the YWCA’s building campaign. “It’s an English as a second language group, but it also is a group specialized to items that are important to them, relevant topics,” said instructor Julia Aguilera, a native of Grenada, Spain. “It’s open to any Latino or Latina who wants to learn English,” she said. Some join the group in addition to schooling at Hawkeye Community College or the University of Northern Iowa. “We cover grammar, but there’s always conversation,” Aguilera said. “It’s good because that opens up the opportunity to talk about things that are relevant to them. They talk about their jobs, they talk about their work, positive or negative. In their social life, they talk about things they share.” The YWCA, Aguilera and the agency’s Latino Services staff also provide case management services for individuals and households, often bridging a language barrier in a pinch by communicating with service agencies for basic services in urgent situations, or between Latino workers and employers on workplace issues. The language group is a step beyond that, towards self sufficiency. YWCA Latino Services will counsel Latina women on health issues. | 43

Cedar Valley Inclusion

Positive results

The language group “started out for women because they were so isolated and their husbands had jobs,” Mohr said. They need English skills to get out in the community for basic errands, and to find work themselves. “A few men will come in because they want to learn the language,” and are welcome. Mohr said instructors of Hispanic ethnic backgrounds like Aguilera help class participants work through cultural differences, both in the language group and case management services. Participants’ English skills vary. A lot of Spanish is used for newcomers to the class. “But when we start class and we’re sticking to the topic, I make them speak English mostly,” Aguilera said. Those who show a mastery of English are encouraged to take formal English as a Second Language classes at HCC. Others engage in an English-Spanish discussion group at the Waterloo Public Library. While the YWCA does not question anyone’s resident status, the language skills can be a bridge to citizenship, agency officials said. Some of the language group participants gain enough mastery of English to get up on front of a group and tell their stories at YWCA’s “Women of Persimmon” recognition event, Mohr said.

Community Foundation projects The following projects were funded in the fall of 2012. PROJECT



Cedar Falls Community Theatre - Access to the Arts Hawkeye Celebrates the Arts Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area for seasonal youth camps

Human Services

Champions of Autism & ADHD for b-Calm units for Autism Center North Star for building improvements YWCA for Ensuring Capital Campaign & Latino Services


Harbaugh-Williams Education Promise Fund

$5,500 $4,000 $5,000 $6,000 $25,000 $37,027.30 $10,000


While programs like the YWCA’s are worthy of foundation support, “we receive more grant applications than we can actually fund,” Wickersham of the Community Foundation said. “We keep working to grow our assets, our endowments and our funds to help meet the constantly changing needs of the community.” The Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa has assets of more than $56 million and awards about $5 million in annual grants, while working with 27 affiliate cities and counties through more than 900 charitable funds. More information about the foundation may be obtained at (319) 287-9106 or Text | PAT KINNEY

Embracing Diversity

Building Our Workforce 44 |


Reaching the cedaR vaLLey With PRint onLine, taBLet and smaRtPhone. You’re holding a Courier product. Inclusion was developed by The Courier to educate, inform and celebrate diversity in our community. Today our print, online, tablet, and Smartphone applications reach more audience than ever in our 150-year history. Over 77,000 readers view our newspaper daily, over 500,000 unique visitors use our website monthly, and in July alone over 200,000 visitors read us on their Smartphone.

Reaching the diveRsified community…the couRieR.

to suBscRiBe caLL 319-291-1444

Cedar Valley Inclusion

FESTIVALS Cinco de Mayo Annual event marking the Mexican holiday commemorating the 1862 Battle of Puebla, in which Mexican defenders defeated an invading French army. The event, which includes music, food vendors, a car show, petting zoo and children’s activities, is an opportunity to showcase Hispanic and Latino culture.


The event is held in and around Lincoln Park and downtown Waterloo. Admission is free.

An annual, multi-day event held in mid-June at a number of sites throughout Waterloo, Juneteenth marks the freeing of the last slaves in the United States at the end of the Civil War. The event traditionally includes music, prayer, entertainment and exhibition booths.

46 |

Cedar Valley Inclusion

Cedar Valley Pridefest

Irish Fest

Organizers held the first Cedar Valley Pridefest in August in downtown Waterloo and hope to make it an annual event highlighting the diverse gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community of eastern Iowa in a positive and informative manner in an effort to promote acceptance, understanding and equality. The event included entertainers, music, information, food and vendors.

Iowa Irish Fest is dedicated to celebrating Irish culture in Iowa, takes place in the Lincoln Park area of downtown Waterloo, and is held annually during the first full weekend of August.

North End Arts & Music Fest This annual event, held in late August, celebrates the arts and culture of Waterloo’s north end, the historical starting point for many of the ethnic groups that came to Waterloo. It was the entry point of the Italians, the Greeks, the Russians, the Germans, the AfricanAmericans and many others.


RESOURCES JESSE COSBY NEIGHBORHOOD CENTER The Jesse Cosby Neighborhood Center provides community-based and culturally competent services to individuals and families in need of assistance and serves as the coordinating link between the greater community and available resources. 1112 Mobile St., Waterloo 232-1793

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. CENTER OF HAWKEYE COMMUNITY COLLEGE The Martin Luther King Jr. Center is a neighborhood center that provides educational opportunities for the community. The center has a state-of-theart computer lab that is open to students and the community. 515 Beech St., Waterloo 319-296-4440

THE ARC CEDAR VALLEY NAACP Meetings are held at 7 p.m. the fourth Thursday of every month at the Jesse Cosby Center. 112 Mobile St., Waterloo 232-7150

BOSNIAN CULTURAL FOUNDATION The Bosnian Cultural Foundation is a nonprofit organization in Waterloo that is dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Bosnian and BosnianAmerican culture, traditions and artifacts. 242-1623

WATERLOO COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS The Waterloo Commission on Human Rights is an organization committed to addressing and redressing all forms of discrimination. 620 Mulberry St. 291-4441

AFRICAN-AMERICAN HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL MUSEUM AAHCM is a boxcar museum whose mission is to promote greater knowledge of the African-American community in the Cedar Valley through the collection, preservation and interpretation of the historical past. 1320 E. Fourth St., Waterloo The Arc’s mission is to advance the total well-being, dignity, individual potential and rights of people with intellectual and related developmental disabilities and their families. 232-0437

SPECIAL OLYMPICS Special Olympics is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering individuals with intellectual disabilities to become physically fit, productive and respected members of society through sports training and competition. Special Olympics offers children and adults with intellectual disabilities year-round training and competition in 26 Olympic-type summer and winter sports. There is no charge to participate in Special Olympics. (515) 986-5520

NORTH STAR COMMUNITY SERVICES North Star is a private, non-profit rehabilitative services agency providing adult day services, employment services and supported community living services so individuals with disabilities are better able to live enriched lives in our communities. 3420 University Ave., Waterloo 236-0901


EXCEPTIONAL PERSONS INC. EPI was created to facilitate and coordinate the development of local activity centers for people with disabilities. 760 Ansborough Ave., Waterloo 232-6671

BLACK HAWK CENTER FOR INDEPENDENT LIVING Centers for Independent Living are private, nonprofit corporations that provide services to maximize the independence of individuals with disabilities and the accessibility of the communities they live in. Serves Benton, Bremer, Black Hawk, Butler, Grundy counties. 312 Jefferson St., Waterloo 291-7755

IOWA DEPARTMENT FOR THE BLIND Iowa Department for the Blind offers specialized, integrated services that blind and severely visually impaired Iowans need to live independently and work competitively. Department services and programs include a library for the blind and physically handicapped, vocational rehabilitation services, independent living rehabilitation services, the adult orientation and adjustment center, business enterprises program, an aids and devices store, and public education and in-service training. Waterloo Branch 3420 University Ave., Ste. A, Waterloo 226-3352 Compiled by Holly Hudson

thank you for recognizing


College Wartburg College is committed to creating and maintaining a mutually respectful environment that recognizes and celebrates diversity among all students, faculty, and staff. Wartburg delivers educational programming to meet the needs of diverse audiences. Wartburg also seeks to instill those values, understandings, and skills to encourage leadership and service in a global, multicultural society.

100 Wartburg Blvd. Waverly, IA 50677 800-772-2085

Cedar Valley Inclusion

ASIAN Asian Indian residents make up the largest segment of Black Hawk County’s Asian population, with 435 residents. They are followed by Chinese (367), Korean (227), Vietnamese (208), Filipino (109) and Japanese (57). The remaining 304 Asian respondents listed “other.”

Black Hawk County is home to


Fourteen other Iowa counties have a higher percentage of Asian residents than Black Hawk. Story County’s

residents who identified themselves as Asian or Asian in combination with another race, based on the 2010 U.S. That is 1.7% of the population. Only 1.3% indicated they were Asian alone.

Cedar Valley Diversity & Inclusion Partnership



Asian population leads the state.

Waterloo’s population of Asian or mixed-race Asian residents is 1.5% of the total population, while Cedar Falls is 2.8%. Iowa is 2.1% Asian, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

Strengthening Cedar Valley Business through the promotion ion of effective diversity and inclusion practices. Summit • Multicultural Receptions • Webinars • Awards

CEDAR VALLEY DIVERSITY & INCLUSION PARTNERSHIP AWARDS For outstanding contribution by a business or organization for leadership in creating and strengthening an environment of diversity and inclusion in the workplace culture, business practices and in the community. Awards will be presented each year at the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber Annual Celebration.

2013 Nomination Deadline October 31, 2013 Annual Celebration Spring, 2014 Find out more at




Inclusion is a belief that everyone The staff is always willing to assist me and make me feel welcome. Hope - Veridian member since 2007

Veridian treats you right. They treat you with respect. Alan - Veridian member since 1985

I know that Veridian is doing everything they can to meet my needs. Megan - Veridian member since 2002 Megan ÂŽ

At Veridian Credit Union , we believe inclusion happens when everyone feels welcome and valued. Our goal is to create an environment


where members and employees can be themselves and feel accepted. See how members experience this belief and learn more about Veridian’s inclusion efforts by visiting



Cedar Valley Inclusion

Right Where Yo u Live.

Our associates reflect the diverse population we serve. When patients and their family members come to Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, they put their lives in our hands. That’s why it’s critical they receive the best care possible from caregivers who understand their particular needs. Our workforce has evolved to reflect the diversity of our patients. Diversity encompasses all the ways in which human beings are both similar and different. By employing associates who understand the health beliefs and practices prevalent in the community, we can help patients feel welcome and better understood while receiving the highest quality health care delivered with compassion and care. At Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, we utilize our “likenesses” and “differences” to continuously improve services, strengthen programs and increase community participation. We have talented and skilled associates from diverse backgrounds who embrace the needs of our patients.

Covenant Clinic

Covenant Medical Center

Mercy Hospital

Sartori Memorial Hospital

Profile for Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier

Cedar Valley Inclusion | Spring 2013  

Celebrating Diversity in the Cedar Valley

Cedar Valley Inclusion | Spring 2013  

Celebrating Diversity in the Cedar Valley


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