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Inclusive communities help local economy, businesses, schools

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To the editor:

A national conversation is focused on immigration reform. And with the significant demographic shift we have experienced, it's time to talk about the value of inclusion in our towns.

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With an influx of new Americans, we have real opportunities to embrace the changes that new folks create and also the knowledge that inclusive communities are stronger economically and socially. Inclusive communities attract new people, and research shows one of the reasons youth leave and don't return is a lack of diversity.

My grandparents were farmers who wanted to make a better life here. My grandfather was foreign born and spoke very little English. But people knew of his kindness, generosity and that he was a good farmer. He raised a large family, loved them dearly, went to church, and contributed to the community.

That's no different from immigrants today. They have strong family values. They work hard, start new businesses, go to church, bring fresh perspectives and new ideas, and are trying to make a better life for their children.

Many new American youth plan to attend college to start a career that will help their community when they go back to live and raise a family. They want to and plan to return to their community.

So, what's the point to inclusion? It is a stronger community, economically and socially, diversity of thought and experiences, innovative ideas, new businesses, full schools, youth who want to return and contribute to their community, and great new neighbors!

Kathie Starkweather, Center for Rural Affairs

Lyons, NE

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