'Common Ground'

Thursday, May 8, 2003

State's bigotry battler finds Storm Lake to be an example in ethnic harmony

The next time Storm Lake and immigration are brought up on the national stage, Max Cardenas hopes it is a message of inclusive "positivity."

"It's a great experience to see how immigration is acting as a catalyst for development and rejuvenation in all areas of the state," said Cardenas, who is the Iowa Project director for the Center for New Community, an independent, non-profit, faith-based organization seeking to equip and organize communities to respond to organized racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and other forms of bigotry.

The Iowa project aims at building a statewide coalition of businesses, civic leaders and members of the faith community to promote the positive message of newcomers in Iowa.

The Center for New Community has identified 22 Iowa communities that have dealt with issues of diversity, and Cardenas is touring nine of those now, including Storm Lake. On Monday and Tuesday, he met with various civic groups, community leaders and school personnel during his visit.

Cardenas, who is a native of Lema, Peru, and a 2001 graduate of Grinnell College, said he found numerous success stories, from new minority-owned businesses throughout town to how the Storm Lake School District has addressed diversity in the classrooms.

"I really found in Storm Lake the common ground that is being built and developed among newcomers and native Iowans," he said.

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