Attendees get to know each other during the third in a series of Growing Goshen Together community conversations Thursday at the Schrock Pavilion in Shanklin Park. John Kline | The Goshen News
Attendees get to know each other during the third in a series of Growing Goshen Together community conversations Thursday at the Schrock Pavilion in Shanklin Park. John Kline | The Goshen News
GOSHEN — Nearly 150 Goshen residents gathered at the Schrock Pavilion in Shanklin Park Thursday evening for the third in a series of Growing Goshen Together community conversations.

Organized by the Goshen Community Relations Commission in partnership with Goshen Community Schools, the two organizations held their first community conversation in April with the goal of building bridges between diverse groups in the Goshen community.

Given the success of the pilot event, which saw about 110 community members join together at Goshen High School, the two groups decided to host an additional three conversations in 2019, one each month from September through November, with each addressing a different theme that arose from the pilot event.

As currently designed, the community conversations utilize a small group, roundtable-type discussion method, and include English/Spanish interpretation at each table.

The group’s Sept. 26 event, held at the Boys and Girls Club of Goshen, featured the theme: “A culture that learns: Our schools and community together.”

Discussions during that community conversation were focused around what is going well in Goshen’s schools and where growth is needed, as well as how the city’s schools can better serve the population and what their role is in the larger community.

For Thursday’s event, attendees were asked to reflect on the theme “How Goshen grows: Balancing power and raising up leaders.”

“With this community conversation, we’re interested in exploring how we develop leadership and distribute power within the community in a way that reflects the ethnicity and culture of the community overall,” said Evan Miller, current chair of the Goshen Community Relations Commission. “So basically we’re trying to figure out what’s working, and how we can make things even better.”

As part of the event, participants were asked to answer three rounds of questions via conversation with fellow attendees, taking about 20 minutes per round, with each round requiring attendees to move to a different table in order to maximize exposure to different people and perspectives.

The questions asked during Thursday’s event included:

• Where do you see leadership and power distributed and embodied in positive ways within the Goshen community or elsewhere? What does it look like and how did it get there?

• What barriers exist for accessing leadership positions in Goshen? What are challenges to raising up current and future generations of diverse leaders?

• How do people become leaders in our community? What are practices we can engage in to grow leadership capacity and balance power with the diversity of Goshen’s population?

“And as people are talking, there’s a host at each table that’s writing notes. So we harvest all that information, and then put together a committee that follows up with that,” Miller added of the talks. “That’s really about saying, ‘OK, what are the ideas here that we really want to act on’, because we don’t want this to just be about chatting. We actually want it to be something that helps the community do some good things.”

Miller also explained how the Growing Goshen Together series aligns perfectly with the CRC’s recently-updated mission statement, which reads: The CRC serves Goshen by developing programs and policies that aim for a city without racism or discrimination of any kind, and build capacity for creative problem solving, resiliency, understanding and compassion among the diverse people in our community.

“So these conversations are really about cultivating respect and compassion for people who are different from ourselves, with the ultimate goal of building a healthier and more productive, life-giving community,” Miller said.

Yolo Lopez DeMarco, a CRC member who was also helping to provide translation services during Thursday’s event, offered a similar sentiment.

“I think these are just wonderful, because I think this is how you start to really get feedback from the community as far as what the need is, where they’re saying that the city is lacking, and this is how you meet those needs, etc. It’s getting out there and really hearing feedback from the community,” she said of the community conversations. “This is actually one of my favorite talks so far, because I think this has a lot to do with the future of how are we going to get other, younger leadership engaged, because that’s what’s going to carry the city. So I think they’re great.”

For his part, longtime Goshen resident Juan Carlos Diaz Quezada, who was attending his second community conversation Thursday, said he sees the events as incredibly important for the Goshen community, particularly in light of today’s tense and divisive political climate.

“This is my second community conversation, and I would definitely support more,” he said. “If you look at the overarching things that are happening in the U.S. today, there’s definitely a need for unity in the community. So I think there are a lot of positive questions being asked, a lot of great conversations coming up, and I’m excited to see what happens.”

The group’s next community conversation, set for 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 14 at the Boys and Girls Club of Goshen, will feature the theme “Who is Goshen: Telling our stories.”
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