Greater Akron Chamber's Monthly Morning Buzz; Lorain County Chamber of Commerce Annual Luncheon; Back-to-School Party for Lincoln-West Comprehensive High School;
Our first event for Friday, August 12th, was the Greater Akron Chamber's monthly "Morning Buzz" meeting at the Hilton Garden Inn on East Market Street in Akron.
We made several new contacts including a first generation American whose parents immigrated to the United States from India in 1982. We also met a man who hosted German exchange students in his home and loved having the experience.
The speaker of the day was Dr. Alfreda Brown, Ed.D., Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Kent State University. Dr. Brown spoke about diversity and how it can better our lives and as well as the organizations represented by the chamber membership. One of the points that she made is involved the "fixed mindset" vs. the "growth mindset". A characteristic of a "fixed mindset" is that a person believes that he/she is good at something based on his/her inherent nature whereas a person of the "growth mindset" believes that a person can change and lead a life of enrichment provided they are willing to take on new challenges and risk failure. Dr. Brown endorsed the "growth mindset" and urged us to "go outside of the norm" and re-shape our skills and/or our thought patterns. Along these lines, the embrace of diversity opens the door for new possibilities.
We talked to Dr. Brown for a moment afterwards and she expressed deep admiration for Ms. Margaret W. Wong who she was very familiar with. We took her contact information so that Dr. Brown can be invited to our holiday party in December.
Next we drove quite a few miles to attend the annual luncheon that the Lorain County Chamber of Commerce puts on for new teachers at the Spitzer Conference Center at the Lorain County Community College. Mr. Tony Gallo, the President of the Chamber, said that the reason for this is because the chamber realizes how important well-educated people are to both business and community.
Our first speaker of the day was Mr. Mike Longo, Director of Lorain County Workforce Development who spoke of "Manufacturing Month" which will take place this October. Its purpose is to "showcase importance of manufacturing in Lorain County" and to challenge the myths about jobs in manufacturing being messy and dead-end. We have learned from other chamber meetings that many young people who are not college material can enjoy an excellent future if they chose to pursue careers in manufacturing.
The other two speakers were Ms. Linda J. Williams, Senior Director of Education Services and Mr. Michael Edelman, Professional Learning Manager both from "WVIZ/PBS Ideastream" who spoke of how PBS can be an excellent supplement and/or enhancer of the learning that takes place in schools. Ms. Williams showed us a short video of how their resources are greatly assisting the schools in the Slavic Village area.
Among the contacts that we made on this day were Professor Matthew A. Williams, Ph.D. of Instructional Technology/Educational Technology at Kent State University. We found Professor Williams to be a very engaging man who told us that he works with a lot of international students from India and was glad to take our contact information.
We also chatted with representatives of the Lorain County Library System who asked for several of the bilingual cards about the services that Margaret W. Wong and Associates provides so they could be displayed on library bulletin boards. Naturally, we made a quick trip to our car to obtain them.
We came away from the luncheon even more aware than we were previously about how good instruction can effect the quality of the education that a child receives. Thus, we really appreciated this statement made by Mr. Gallo:
"According to a study done by the Center on Education Policy, we need a strong public education system that offers choice and meaningful learning options that are accessible and equitable to all. All meaning rich and poor; black, white, Asian, Hispanic; as well as the learning disabled. That data shows that a well-educated populace is paramount to the sustainability of a society. A society that educates its citizens, is more likely to provide opportunities for social mobility, a skilled and well paid labor force, healthier lifestyles and longevity and even a drastic reduction in the crime rate."
Our last event for Friday was a back-to-school party for Lincoln-West Comprehensive High School on West 30th
Street in Cleveland. It was organized by Ms. Iteisha Bankston, the senior high principal who welcomed us all.
Since Ms. Margaret W. Wong is a member of the "Friends of Lincoln-West" we were invited to table so we set up our collapsible banner and spread out our literature between the spaces occupied by MetroHealth Medical Center, staffed by Ms. Jennifer Tulli, Clinical Project Manager for the Community Health Care Initiative, and Cleveland Public Library, staffed by Mr. J. Lefowitz, a library assistant who enjoys working with youngsters so much that he brought his two guitars along so that he could contribute to the entertainment. Other worthy organizations tabling there included College Now of Greater Cleveland and Esperanza.
Contributing to the high spirits in the room were corn hole ping-pong, music, a dart game, and a game that we enjoyed wherein the player got to throw bean bags at Humpty Dumpty in order to knock him off his wall which we could not do.
We spoke to a person who had a relative from Mexico who was living legally in the United States until a shyster law office messed up his legal status. The end result was that the relative was forced to return to Mexico. We shared our contact information with the family member in case Margaret W. Wong and Associates could be of assistance.
Along these lines, Ms. Andrea Gale, an English teacher and journalism advisor, stopped by our table to tell us that she had written an article for the school newspaper about Ms. Margaret W. Wong speaking at the Lincoln-West commencement ceremony several years ago. We told her that Ms. Wong had told us that she really enjoyed speaking at the ceremonies and will continue to be very supportive of Lincoln-West.
On Saturday, August 13th, we helped set up for the "Pride in the CLE" festival that took place throughout the day in Public Square. A lot has already been written about how the 28th Annual Cleveland Pride parade and festival was cancelled only 13 days prior. Nevertheless, community leaders like Ms. Phyllis Harris, Executive Director of the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland, and Ward 3 Cleveland City Councilman Kerry McCormack rallied their forces, and raised the necessary monies (Margaret W. Wong and Associates was a proud contributor) to organize and produce "Pride in the CLE" which was not so much a substitute event as a terrific successor to the Pride Festivals that we have attended over the years.
We arrived at 8:30am and, under the direction of Mr. Darl Schoff, we helped place barricades around public square, helped to unload the sound truck, and tie large bricks to the vendor tents so that the winds would not blow them away. Things were pretty well set up by the time we left Public Square about 10:30am to walk over to the Northeast end of Superior Viaduct to take part in the parade.
Of course the turnout was excellent and among the businesses/organizations/houses of worship that had formed marching teams were Starbucks, Old South United Church of Christ, Cleveland Stonewall Democrats, Huntington Bank, Equality Ohio,Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, Pilgrim Church, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, and Walgreen's. What's more, the National Park Service even put a team of six people together at the very last-minute.
Judge Diane M. Palos (Court of Common Pleas) and Ohio State Reps. Nickie Antonio (District 13) and Kent Smith (District 8) all marched in the parade as well as political candidates Mr. Michael Wager (U.S. House District 14), Ms. Emily Hagen (Ohio Senate District 24), and Mr. Tommy Greene (Ohio House District 16). We, ourselves, helped to carry a large rainbow banner as the Burning River Roller Girls performed all sorts of stunts besides us including skating under the banner as we walked along. When we arrived in Public Square, the organizers were ready with bottles of water which was very much appreciated on such a humid day.
There was a few minutes before the ceremonies started so we went into Rebols where we enjoyed a cold veggie smoothie. We shared a table with Mr. Kevin Harding, an engineering teacher at MC^2 Stem High School in Cleveland. Mr. Harding told us that his students see their learning experience as a way of serving the community. Accordingly, they are putting together "Garden Science Kits" to be donated to the local middle school so that they can experiment with the growing of vegetables.
We finished our smoothie and returned to the main stage where we listened to such performance groups as Windsong and the North Coast Men's Chorus. Serving as emcee and doing a fine job was Professor Ken Schneck of Baldwin Wallace University. We heard from several LGBTQ activists as well as such elected officials as Mayor Frank Jackson and Cleveland City Council members Zack Reed, Brian Kazy, Kerry McCormack (of course), and Brian Cummins. All of them agreed that it was remarkable that this parade and festival had been put together in such a short time and had brought thousands of people together.
When it was Ohio State Rep. Antonio's turn to speak she announced that she had brought a citation for Ms. Phyllis Harris who had coordinated "Pride in the CLE" through the LGBT Center. Ohio State Rep. Antonio went on to say we must respond when hate and bigotry are displayed by people who would like to lead this country as is the case at this time. She then said firmly that the LGBTQ community does respond by saying no to hate. Ohio State Rep. Antonio then urged everyone there to register to vote and vote our values, our community and our equality. She noted that it takes courage to be oneself and that "there is no closet big enough to contain us!" She concluded by saying that we should be proud of who we are and emphasized need to stand together as a united community.
We were very tired at the end of the day on Saturday but we had purchased tickets to a concert by Mr. Kailash Kher and his band, Kailasa at the State Theatre in order to show our support for the planned Sewa Family Services Center (SFS), which would be the beneficiary of the monies raised from this concert.
It will be the mission of SFS to "serve people in need by providing helpful information, education, referrals, leveraging community volunteers who can help and partnering with local community and service organizations." Among the many people that SFS will help are those who have immigrated to the United States from other countries and/or those who are refugees. Sewa International has done a lot to assist the Bhutanese refugees living in the Cleveland area.
We were not sure what we would actually see/hear at the concert, however, even though we have read that Mr. Kher is a huge musical superstar back in India.
Upon arrival, we said hello to Mr. Anil Kumar Singh and Ms. Mona Alag. We waved at Mr. Bharat Kumar who reminded us that the India Festival in Independence, which we always table at, would be taking place in just four weeks. We were hungry after a long day so we got some delicious Indian food from Mr. Abhay Shah tabling on behalf of his "Cuisine of India" restaurant.
Before the concert begin, we were treated to a slide show that reviewed the many projects that Sewa has been involved with. We then listened to short talks by such people as Professor Sree N. Sreenath, the President of Sewa International, and Dr. Hira Fotedar, President of Sewa's Cleveland chapter.
Then the concert began. Even though all of the songs were in a language other than our own, we loved the beat of the music, the lighting design was spectacular, and, especially since we had been outdoors in the humidity for most of the day, we found the energy of Mr. Kher and his band to be at knockout level.
During one song, a number of attendees (both young and old) gathered at the foot of the stage to dance, sing, and cheer along with the band. We have not been to many rock concerts but it reminded us news clips that we have seen of the Beatles when they first arrived in the United States.
We took a friend of ours with us who has not been to too many ethnic events in this area so we were curious as to what she thought about what she had just seen and heard. She laughed and said, "it was just like going to India and attending a rock concert there!"
On Sunday, August 14th, we decided to take a ride to Dayton, Ohio because a presentation would be given at the Dayton International Peace Museum that afternoon on "Welcome Dayton" by Ms. Melissa Bertolo, its Program Coordinator.
As the "Welcome Dayton" website told us, this community initiative, adopted in October of 2011, "reflects our country's core philosophy: people with diverse backgrounds, skills and experiences fuel our country's success. The Welcome Dayton effort promotes immigrant integration into the greater Dayton region by encouraging business and economic development, providing access to education, government, health and social services; ensuring equity in the justice system; and promoting an appreciation of arts and culture."
We were greeted at the museum by Mr. Jerry Douglas Leggett, its executive director who was glad to take us on a tour. He also told us that Mayor Nan Whaley of Dayton will be one of the three mayors in the country to participate in the Global Parliament of Mayor that will be meeting on September 9th through the 11th at the Hague in the Netherlands. One of the subjects discussed will be border issues which pertain to immigration.
Along these lines, the room in which the meeting was conducted contained an exhibit titled "Borders" by Ms. Beth Holyoke, an artist who is very concerned about the plight of refugees particularly those from Syria.
Among the attendees there on this day was Mr. Bill Meers who put together an exhibit about immigration that was displayed at the museum about 4-5 years ago.
Ms. Bertolo started off her presentation by sharing with us the fact that the foreign-born population in Dayton increased 50% between 2000-2010. So foreign-born people in Dayton now compose 4.5% of the population and there are students from 40 countries in its schools. Within the city limits the immigration population is mostly Hispanic but just outside of these limits is a significant Indian population. Turkish immigrants are also large in number and there is a significant African population here too.
These immigrants have been a terrific benefit both economically and socially but, still, some people in Dayton were quite wary of the these newcomers.
Out of this came "Welcome Dayton" which focuses on five areas which are:
****Business and Economic Development: many immigrants were credentialed for various occupations in the their country of origin but are having a tough time having these credentials recognized here in the U.S. Efforts are being made to assist them with this process.
****Community Culture and Arts: immigrants are encouraged to tell their stories and people born here in the United States are encouraged to trace their own backgrounds. As we have written before on this blog, by taking part in this exercise people find out that they have more in common than what they initially thought.
****Government and Justice: deals with accessibility to public services. Relationships between the foreign-born and local law enforcement have improved and efforts are being made to provide interpreters for those still struggling with English.
****Education: Ms. Bertolo told us of a high school project that is now taking place where immigrant and native born students are teamed up to assist and to learn from each other. Thus far, results have been quite good.
****Health and Social Services: once again, there is a very promising program wherein immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for 10 years or more have are teamed up with newcomers to help them become better acquainted with their new surroundings.
We went on to discuss such issues as the funding for these efforts. Ms. Bertolo told us that "Welcome Dayton" has a staff of three people and she is one of them. It was initially funded by a grant but now the monies come from the general fund. Nevertheless, they are seeking additional grants to continue their efforts. To be sure, the reason that "Welcome Dayton" has succeeded as well as it has is because it is a community effort and the citizenry has been very good in terms of contributing from everyone's own area of expertise.
As for refugees, 250 individuals are resettled here annually. Many would like to see more but it is a question of being able to provide the necessary services to help more of them adjust. For instance, the schools would have a tough time successfully meeting the complicated needs of additional refugee/immigrant students at this time.
The day ended the attendees dividing into small discussion groups in order to brainstorm on several topics that Ms. Bertolo presented to us like what are our own "borders" in terms of getting involved with a project like "Welcome Dayton." We had a worthwhile experience sharing with Ms. Joan Franks, a community activist; Dr. Jacqueline A. Housel from Sinclair Community College; and Sister Judi Clemons from the Sisters of Notre Dame.
Afterwards, we spoke to Ms. Bertolo and learned that "Welcome Dayton" is in contact with Global Cleveland and she is scheduled to meet with its president, Mr. Joe Cimperman, for the very first time in the near future.
From what we learned today, "Welcome Dayton" is a very worthwhile program and we encourage people to read more about it at http://www.welcomedayton.org/about/
Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC