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KSMU is bringing you a month-long series called Diversity Dialogues as part of Black History Month. To conclude this series, KSMU's Emily Nash shows us how people are embracing diversity in the Ozarks.
For the last three weeks, we have discussed several diversity topics.
This week, we wanted to look at people and programs that promote and embrace diversity.
The Developmental Center of the Ozarks is a not for profit agency that provides a variety of services for people with developmental disabilities.
Sherron Hailey is the Director of Programming for the DCO.
She says, developmental disabilities are an important characteristic of diversity and the DCO helps integrate individuals with disabilities into regular lifestyles.
"Developmental Disability is defined as a condition that occurs prior to the age of 21, and is considered to be life long in nature. Looking at the range of ages, six weeks through the most senior population that we have, we provide services to people that have every type of syndrome that you can imagine. So part of our goal is to help families and individuals learn how to access what they have on a regular day to day basis and their regular routines and schedules, to incorporate their therapeutic activities and strategies into those natural routines and activities."
Hailey says, the DCO and other agencies in town always need volunteers for the programs and services they offer.
"All of the programs that we offer actively use volunteers. Whether it's going with children in childcare to the zoo, for a field trip, or reading to a group of children in the adult programs. It could be helping sitting next to someone helping them learn to write their name or practice on the computer, or doing those types of things. A lot of the other agencies in town and services that are out there use volunteers as well. Supporting Chance, Special Olympics, Therapeutic Horseback Riding, there's a variety of volunteer opportunities."
While the DCO helps the community embrace diversity, another local organization promotes cultural diversity.
Unite Publications is a monthly newspaper that targets African American families.
Samuel Knox is the president and managing editor of Unite Publications.
He says, Unite helps preserve the African American culture in Springfield.
"Unite really serves as a preserver of history. In the seventeen plus years that we have been around, we have cataloged and documented the stories of people and the multi-dimensions of those people. You know, from church to family, to career, to play, and work, and I think that's a snapshot in our community, that you just won't find anywhere else."
Missouri State University has recently implemented several strategies to improve diversity on campus.
Andrew Shaughnessy is the Missouri State Student Government Association's Director of Multi-Cultural and Public Affairs and student representative for the President's Commission for Diversity.
Shaughnessy says he is responsible for representing the students' voice to the President's commission.
Each semester he holds a program called Diversity Dialogs where students can freely discuss and question diversity issues on campus.
"I think that is the best way to learn about Diversity, to learn about other cultures, to learn about people, there's just to sit down with a person of a multi-cultural race, and just talk to them about it. Just ask them questions, you know like, any kind of questions even stereotypical ones. Just to kind of debunk the dogmas that we have of different cultures. Also we ask questions pertaining to what do you feel Missouri State could do to improve diversity on campus. What other programs would you like to see implemented. What would you like to see diversity come as to you. Last year the presidential commission put together, their big list of projections they want to get done. And a lot of the projections that were on the charge, were dealing with what students had said in the previous Diversity Dialogs."
Students at Missouri State have started organizations that help promote diversity.
Tamila Gresham is the co-founder and president of the new NAACP chapter at Missouri State.
She says, embracing diversity is a process, and we should always look for opportunities to improve our perspectives on diversity.
"I just say, be open minded and don't assume that you know everything or just because you know a little you are automatically totally aligned with the cause. I guess discrimination and stereotypes can be very small, and very minute sometimes, and we tend to ignore them within ourselves, so then we feel like, you know I have a handle on this diversity thing, that's not always the case. So I think people really need to just take it one step at a time. And we have to never get to that point where we feel like oh I have arrived now. I am totally ok with diversity and I'm not racist or prejudice at all anymore."
If you've missed any of our Diversity Dialog series, you can listen by going to KSMU.org and clicking on Global Citizenship.
I'm Emily Nash for KSMU News.