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Project 1590 group looks for diverse voices

FAIRMONT– Project 1590’s newest committee, Celebrating Culture in Martin County, is searching for individuals from the Hispanic and Latino communities who are interested in speaking at an event this summer with the goal of educating local organizations about their experiences.

Celia Simpson is an American Connection Corps fellow hosted by Project 1590. She explained how the newest committee got started and how she got involved.

“As part of the program, you can do a community venture. You pick an issue you’re passionate about and get involved. Multiculturalism is an issue and I got connected with the group that put on the multicultural festival in 2021. That’s the group that is now being established as Celebrating Culture in Martin County,” Simpson explained.

The committee just officially joined under Project 1590 in February. Simpson said before they joined Project 1590, members started working on a new resident guide to Martin County which has information on what people need to know in terms of how to find housing and jobs, as well information on things like utilities.

“They got a grant to do the whole thing in Spanish. Right now’s it’s at Region Nine to be designed,” Simpson said.

Additionally, the Celebrating Culture in Martin County committee is getting an intern in May through the Minnesota Valley Action Council (MVAC)/Martin County summer internship program. The intern, Briana Joseph, will be working quite a bit on the event.

Now the committee is looking for people who are interested in sitting on a panel and speaking at an event this summer.

Simpson said that Joshua Schuetz, who is a Community and Business Development Specialist with the county Economic Development Authority, contacted her and said he was going to apply for a grant through the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) and wanted to do a partnership.

“Part of the funds went to their website to be translated and the other part is going to this event,” Simpson explained.

The event will feature a panel of Hispanic and Latino members of the community who will speak about their experience living here and what their needs and obstacles are. It will be open to the public and held at the Southern Minnesota Educational Campus (SMEC) building in Fairmont. Interpreters will also be available at the event.

COPAL, a Latino advocacy group, will be a speaker at the event as it recently launched a southern Minnesota branch that is located out of Mankato. Simpson said they’ll be able to speak to the broader picture of what’s going on.

“Right now the focus is on bringing in local people from the Hispanic community to be part of the planning for it,” Simpson said.

Other people involved in planning the event include Schuetz and Fairmont Community Education and Recreation (CER) Director, Stephanie Busiahn.

Simpson explained why an event like this is needed.

“One of the biggest things we’re seeing is the population decline in Martin County. A lot of the ways other counties around us are supplementing for workforce and extra people

is with immigrant populations. Right now Martin County really isn’t that accessible,” Simpson said.

She recently went to an event that detailed the growth in Hispanic communities across southern Minnesota and learned that Martin County had the slowest increase and the lowest numbers.

Simpson acknowledged that several years ago, in 2018, a cohort from the Fairmont area participated in a rural equity learning community through Region Nine, University of Minnesota Extension and the Greater Mankato Diversity Council. The event was put on in conjunction with CER and aimed to get people talking about diversity.

“I think those were really good starting places, but the conversation hasn’t continued,” Simpson said.

More information on the event will be available in the coming weeks. Anyone who has questions or wants to get involved can contact Simpson by email at celia7747@gmail.com or by calling 507-848-1854.

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