The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

March 28, 2014

Learning about each other

(Continued)

Besides the two speakers, Lt. Torrillo and Nicole Kelly, Miss Iowa 2013, there were the well-attended breakout sessions.

"Breakout sessions may make you uncomfortable. They may cause you to question your beliefs," said Stewart.

Over lunch, participants' responses matched what Stewart talked about as she welcomed attendees to the conference. At least one lecture course Friday was "depressing," an attendee said. Another session was inspirational, said a man at the same table.

Some sessions focused on fighting human trafficking, aging, the path to citizenship and how to look at what people can accomplish, rather than what they cannot accomplish with a lecture entitled "Disability. Why do we focus on the 'Dis' and not on the 'ability?'"

For one of them, a former Ottumwa resident returned. Superintendent Steve Hanson of the West Liberty Community School District, was formerly principal of Ottumwa High School.

"I'm talking about the dual-language program in West Liberty," he said.

Elementary students can work toward becoming bilingual. They are taught in English half the day, and in Spanish the other half of the day. And they really are learning the language, Hanson said. It's not a requirement.

"It's voluntary," he said, "but 60 percent of our elementary students participate."

"Diversity isn't just about race or religion or disability," Stewart told the audience. "It's as big as our universe."

News reporter Mark Newman is on Twitter @couriermark

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