The city of La Verne has taken steps toward building relationships in the community with the Cultural Awareness and Social Inclusion Committee, created in 2019 with the intention of educating residents on cultural awareness and creating a safe space for everyone of all backgrounds.
With the help of volunteers, the committee aims to provide a place for discussion about diversity topics where community members can listen and share.
“One thing that creates bridges is actually meeting people of a different color and that look differently than I look,” Julia Wheeler, vice chair of the Cultural Awareness and Social Inclusion Committee, said.
As vice chair, Wheeler organizes their agenda, writes to their blog page and helps oversee the daily operations.
The Committee has created a blog for participants to share their experiences with inclusivity.
Their website also has a support form where reports of discrimination issues regarding race, disability, sexual orientation and more can be made.
The Committee can help provide individuals with assistance in navigating the situation in hopes of a peaceful resolution and improving the city for themselves and others.
The objective is to avoid turning a blind eye to diversity issues in the city and provide the support needed to create a more diverse La Verne.
“We love the fact that a lot of people on our committee are working, have families or run businesses and we know it’s important to generate interest in this program with the youth,” said Gilbert Ivey, chair of the Cultural Awareness and Social Inclusion Committee.
Three University of La Verne students are interning with the Committee, where they are responsible for maintaining the website, meeting on Zoom, promoting social inclusion events and sharing resources on their online platforms including Instagram and Facebook.
Chavon Jackson, Committee intern and junior computer science major at the University, said he helps facilitate the website and collaborates ideas with the team to get the word out about the committee’s efforts.
He began his internship at the beginning of the academic year after hearing about the position through the University.
Jackson said his experience as an intern has made him feel like an active part of La Verne more than ever before.
“We want everyone to feel as if their voice matters and that’s really what CASI is about,” Jackson said. “We care about what you think about what the city does in regards to diversity.”
Ivey said the interns have been a successful addition to the team.
“Their energy is really helpful to the Committee. They keep us on our toes and ask us probing questions,” Ivey said.
The Committee hosts “join us for dinner on Zoom,” a regular event where people can join in on a virtual meeting to get to know their neighbors and have an open conversation about diversity topics without judgement.
Members believe that the best way to eliminate any forms of exclusion is to integrate with people of all backgrounds and open up to the idea of talking about sensitive matters.
“(It’s a chance) to meet other neighbors and hear about their experiences in the city of La Verne and help them know what CASI is about in hopes to create a more inclusive community,” said Zandra Wagoner, university chaplain and committee member.
The fairly new committee has big plans for other community efforts, such as a book club.
In the future, the Cultural Awareness and Social Inclusion Committee hopes to expand their outreach and interact with the rest of La Verne.
Anabel Martinez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.