published Saturday, August 31st, 2013

Chattanooga leaders working toward ensuring cultural diversity

  • photo
    Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger comments on a portion of his budget to county commissioners in this file photo.
    Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

ONLINE

• Visit www.opportunityindex.org to research any area of the United States to learn about how well counties and states support economic opportunity and mobility.

Local officials are working with a national organization to ensure culturally diverse residents get a fair shake at success in Chattanooga and the surrounding metro area.

"We are an evolving cultural experience," Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said this week during an Opportunity Nation event at Chattanooga State Community College.

Opportunity Nation is a Washington, D.C.-based bipartisan advocacy group that aims to provide people with information and resources to help them keep making economic progress.

"The ZIP code you're born into shouldn't determine how high you can climb," Russel Krumrow, coalition director with Opportunity Nation, said at Thursday's event.

Hamilton County is rooted in international diversity, said Coppinger, who noted the county's namesake, Hamilton Alexander, emigrated from the West Indies and found great success here.

"He's a great example of what the American dream is really about," he said.

As part of the Opportunity Nation event, Hamilton County Commissioner Tim Boyd presented Gladys Pineda-Loher, director of international community outreach at Chattanooga State, with a $7,000 check to help fund her work. The money came from discretionary funds available to commissioners. Pineda-Loher facilitates a cultural ambassador program linking established professionals with newcomers.

Because his district is "the most diverse district in the county," Boyd said he needs to support efforts to help people of all backgrounds.

His district includes parts of East Ridge and Brainerd. At East Ridge Middle and High schools, students speak 12 languages, he said.

"The Latino and Hispanic population in my district is growing very, very rapidly," he said.

Krumrow said according to 2012 statistics, Tennessee is 39th in the United States in an overall "opportunity" score. Tennessee ranks in the 40s out of 100 in the chart's three sections: economy, education and community. Hamilton County ranks 10 points higher than Tennessee averages in economy, but scores marginally lower in education and community. Williamson and Washington counties ranked highest in Tennessee.

Krumrow also announced that Chattanooga State is now one of "a dozen" American colleges and universities to be part of the Opportunity Nation network.

"We're shouting from the rooftops about your good work," he said.

Krumrow said Chattanooga State has been added because it is helping local business and students, as well as makes the community as a whole better. The school will now be featured in Opportunity Nation presentations and information nationwide, he said.

"They've sort of figured this puzzle out," he said.

Contact staff writer Alex Green at agreen@timesfree press.com or 423-504-5442.

about Alex Green...

Alex Green joined the Times Free Press staff full-time in January 2014 after completing the paper's six-month, general assignment reporter internship. Alex grew up in Dayton, Tenn., which is also where he studied journalism at Bryan College. He graduated from Rhea County High School in 2008. During college, Alex covered the city of Graysville and the town of Spring City for The Herald-News. As editor-in-chief of Bryan College's student news group, Triangle, Alex reported on ...

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