In 2022, the Center for Economic Opportunity & Belonging at EDCUtah launched the Welcoming and Belonging Community Cohort in partnership with Welcoming America. As part of this initiative, we are interviewing members of the Welcoming and Belonging Community Cohort to talk about their progress, highlight success stories, and share best practices.
We spoke to Julie Rosier, community services program manager, about the welcoming efforts in southeastern Utah, including the Bookcliff mural event.
SEAULG received a grant from the Build Back Better Regional Challenge. The Build Back program is part of the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s American Rescue Plan created to help communities bounce back economically after the COVID-19 pandemic. The grant included an equity component. While Geri Gamber, the executive director of SEUALG, and I had already started thinking about diversity and equity in our community, this was another push towards incorporating it into our organization. We started tackling this by reaching out to Ze Min Xiao, the director for the Center for Economic Opportunity and Belonging. Xiao put us in touch with Welcoming America, an organization dedicated to making communities welcoming places for everyone, including New Americans. We at SEUALG have been doing all we can to be as equitable as possible. As we continued this work, it became apparent to us how important and needed it is for our community.
The support from Xiao, as well as Alyssa Kay with the Utah Office of Energy Development, helped Gamber and I shape SUEALG’s Welcoming and Belonging Proclamation. This proclamation clearly states our beliefs:
“Our community’s success depends on making sure that all residents feel welcome and that all people, regardless of race, nationality, gender, disability or religion, bring fresh perspectives, new ideas, business and a valuable diversity of life and, fostering a welcoming environment for all.”
The proclamation received support from our board and was signed by all the mayors and commissioners in the areas we serve. It is the foundation for everything we do.
As a part of Welcoming Week 2022, SEUALG and Price City hosted an event to celebrate the completion of the Bookcliff Mural. The mural, which is located on Main Street in Price, celebrates the rich and diverse history of Price City. The celebration event was certified as an official Welcoming Week activity by Welcoming America. These efforts were supported by many, including Congressman John Curtis and other leaders in Utah, who spoke at the Bookcliff Mural celebration.
It’s really important to share our beliefs. In the past, there have been certain groups or individuals who have not felt welcomed, and that is not okay. We hope these efforts will help change the landscape of our community so that everyone feels like they belong. We are really asking, how we can serve counties that are made up largely of New Americans as well as indigenous people. We also hope to write future policy around equity and to share it with all the communities we serve.
Our Bookcliff Mural event will not be the only one of its kind. We plan to host more welcoming events. You can stay updated by going to SUEALG’s website, which will be updated soon. You can also stay connected by following SEUALG on Facebook.
Ze Min Xiao
Director, Center for Economic Opportunity & Belongingzxiao@edcutah.org