The Garden City Telegram
12/10/2012
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Diverse look

Expect study to provide lessons here and beyond.

For many decades, Garden City has welcomed immigrants who've filled labor needs ranging from railroad, beet field and sugar plant work to meatpacking chores.

Ethnic diversity has become a common theme in a community that's truly a melting pot of cultures, with more recent arrivals being of Burmese and Somali descent.

It's led scholars and others interested in what makes the community tick descend on Garden City for a closer look.

The latest such venture will come in a new research study conducted by the University of Kansas.

A grant will allow KU researchers to study 30 years of continuous population changes spurred by the meatpacking industry, and the resulting impact on local schools.

Those who've studied the complexities of diversity know there's no simple formula here or anywhere for successfully bringing together different cultures. Miscommunication, misunderstanding and more serious problems happen in all communities that attract people of other lands, Garden City included.

Credit local government and other entities — Garden City Community College and Garden City USD 457 in particular — for acknowledging that challenge and being proactive in pursuing strategies that enhance understanding between current residents and newcomers.

Such initiatives are all the more necessary in a political climate nationwide that has perpetuated wrong assumptions about foreigners who come here to live and work.

That said, any attempt to understand different cultures has to go both ways.

Newcomers need to learn and understand as much as they can about the cultures of people already here. English as a Second Language classes and other good programs help those new to the area assimilate.

There's always more to learn when it comes to encouraging immigrants to better understand their new home, and helping local residents learn to live in harmony with newcomers.

The plan calls for findings of the KU study to be put to use in guiding educators in communities nationwide realizing greater diversity. Results of the study also could lead to new strategies in Garden City, a community that's been a model for multicultural change, but always has room to grow and improve in that regard.