To Jill Scholtz, Eden Prairie is like the flowers in her garden, or the fabrics in the quilts she creates – richer and more beautiful because they include a variety of colors, shapes and textures.
The growing diversity of Eden Prairie’s population will be explored and celebrated from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 25, at the Eden Prairie Senior Center, 8950 Eden Prairie Road.
“Who’s Your Neighbor?/Embracing Culture and Diversity in Our Community” is sponsored by the Eden Prairie Community Foundation, in collaboration with the Eden Prairie Senior Center.
Anyone is invited to participate in the free session. The last day to register is Friday, April 21. Participants need not be senior citizens.
The event will include:
- A panel discussion featuring five Eden Prairie residents of varying cultural backgrounds will discuss their identities and how they have experienced bias.
- A presentation by Scholtz on how bias influences human interactions, and how to recognize and address bias in oneself.
- Facilitated small-group discussions among attendees.
- Connection with people of multiple backgrounds who call Eden Prairie home.
Scholtz, a member of the Eden Prairie Community Foundation board, said she has done numerous presentations and mediations related to addressing bias.
Bias, she said, is a natural human tendency. It’s inherent in the way people use their life experiences and understanding to make sense of the world around them.
“Bias is not necessarily bad,” Scholtz said, but it can get in the way of understanding and interacting with others if people are not aware of it and fail to address it.
Josh Rockey, a recreation specialist at the Eden Prairie Senior Center, said the senior center hosted a similar event about a year ago, also featuring a panel of Eden Prairie residents of differing backgrounds – such as East African, Middle Eastern and South Asian.
U.S. Census statistics bear out the observation that Eden Prairie is growing more diverse.
As of 2022, the Census Bureau estimates about 74.4 percent of Eden Prairie’s population is white. 12.7 percent is Asian, 6.6 percent black, 4.4 percent Hispanic and 4.2 percent are of two or more races.
Rockey said the genesis of “Who’s Your Neighbor?” was the curiosity of someone active in the Senior Citizens group, about the increasing diversity in Eden Prairie.
“We know there are a lot of immigrants in Minnesota, but who’s new in Eden Prairie?” Rockey said.
The 2022 event drew about 40 participants, according to Rockey, and featured round-table discussions after the panel’s presentation.
Rockey said many of the panelists expressed willingness to entertain friendly questions from curious strangers about topics such as their clothing, food, and customs. One thing some participants wanted to know was whether it’s polite to approach a stranger in a public place, like a supermarket, and ask such questions. Some of the panelists said they have no problem with that, Rockey said.
Not only did the participants learn from the panelists, he said, but the panelists also became aware of resources available to them in Eden Prairie. For example, women whose culture requires modesty in dress have the option of using the Eden Prairie Community Center’s aquatic facilities during women-only swimming hours, usually from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Sundays.
Greg Leeper, executive director of the Eden Prairie Community Foundation, said sessions such as these are very much in keeping with the foundation’s mission.
“We seek to enrich our community,” he said. “We do whatever we can to make sure Eden Prairie is a place of flourishing for all our neighbors.”
Rockey said people who want to attend the event should register by end of business Friday, either by calling the Senior Center at 952-279-8050, or entering registration code 371230 on the city’s website, edenprairie.org/register.
Editor’s note: The registration code listed in the last paragraph has been corrected.
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