The Ottumwa Courier

March 6, 2014

A view of our world

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA β€” A wider understanding of diversity can open a wider view of the world. It also allows the Diversity Conference in Ottumwa to have exciting activities that may not seem, at first, to have much to do with diversity.

For example, at the 10th Annual conference this year, the main morning speaker will be Lt. Joe Torrillo, a retired New York City Fire Department officer. He was present on 9/11 when the World Trade Center came down. He survived being buried alive.

A heroic occurrence, but where does the diversity come in?

"His topic was so interesting, it appeals to a large population," said Ashley Albertson, coordinator, Indian Hills Community College international affairs department. "It was 9/11, he said, a day where the people of America came together; white people were helping black people, black people were helping white people. The soot from the towers, he said, turned everyone gray; we were all one people."

As a survivor, he travels the country with a quest of resurrecting patriotism to make the nation the β€œRe-United States of America,” and inspiring audiences to embrace change.

The event is an all-day conference scheduled for March 28 on the IHCC Ottumwa campus. After the lieutenant finishes around 10:30 a.m., there will be smaller classes designed to focus on specific topics chosen by the participant.

"There will be three 60-minute breakout sessions on a variety of issues offered throughout the day, featuring topics that influence our local, state and national communities," Albertson said.

One new choice will be on Schools and Colleges: Diversity Microcosms. Another current topic will be about how LGBT Iowans can navigate the Health Insurance Marketplace. This year, there will be multiple sessions on the crisis arising from human trafficking. Another session is called "The Theory of White Privilege," and one session will have a husband and wife talking about their specific journey in gaining U.S. citizenship. Latino education will also play a large role this year.

The keynote speaker in the afternoon will be Miss Iowa 2013 Nicole Kelly, who was born without her lower left arm. Her passion is helping individuals understand their unique ability rather than their disability.

"That should be a really great experience," Albertson said. "We wanted to promote it especially to younger students."

The conference fee is $40, but there is no cost to attend for students with a student ID card. Lunch is included with all registrations.

For more information on the diversity conference or to register, visit

β€” News reporter Mark Newman is on Twitter @couriermark