Recognizing Diversity, Embracing Opportunity

As our community grows and new residents call Sioux Falls home, our community’s cultures, traditions, and experiences also continue to become even more vibrant. Our city is culturally diverse in ways that we weren’t even just ten years ago. We see that reflected across our community, including the diversity in our school systems, which in the Sioux Falls School District is now more than 40 percent ethnically diverse. With that growth, it becomes even more important for each of us to continue to learn from and make connections to our neighbors and to celebrate our community’s cultures and traditions.

One event that has unexpectedly fostered community engagement is the start of a new youth soccer league in northeast Sioux Falls called Riverside Soccer League. It all started with one student named Roberto who loved soccer. Community advocate Randell Beck mentored Roberto, a student at Laura B. Anderson Elementary, who played soccer at school but wasn’t able to be on a soccer team due to limited financial resources. Randell set out to change that. He partnered with local community leader Tamien Dysart and the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation to start a fund for a soccer league, and organizations across the city rallied around this effort. It has been inspiring to see how this community soccer league has helped to close the opportunity gap for kids in the neighborhood to play an organized sport.

Soccer

photo credit: Aluisius Photography

The Riverside Soccer League has also connected the neighborhood and built community in one of our core neighborhoods. Long-time neighborhood residents met refugee families who were new to the neighborhood. Word of the league’s success quickly spread, and organizers are now planning to replicate this model across the city. Hopefully this story inspires other community leagues to follow suit.

Getting to know your neighbor often starts with a simple conversation like those in the Riverside neighborhood. Recently I had two opportunities to learn more about and celebrate our community’s cultural diversity.

 Lunar Fest Lions

photo credit: Vietnamese Community of Sioux Falls and Area

Recently, Lakota leader George Eagleman invited me to participate in an Inipi (sweat lodge) ceremony with members of our Native American community. It was an incredible experience, and I am honored to have had this opportunity to learn more from our Native American leaders as we continue building relationships to move our city forward.

Last month I also had the chance to attend this year’s Lunar Fest, held in celebration of Lunar New Year, which is traditionally the start of the Asian lunar calendar. From the lion dance to a pho-eating contest (of which I made a valiant effort but came up short), I enjoyed participating in this vibrant, joyous event with my family. I’ve had the chance to attend this over the years, the most memorable being in 2020 when I was invited to preside over a ceremony honoring Veterans of the Vietnam War and other foreign wars. This event continues to bring together the Asian community and our larger community in celebration.

Many in our community may not be aware of the House of God Church in Sioux Falls, which is home to a large number of Ukrainian immigrants. I was able to worship with them recently and join their members in prayer, as the Ukrainian conflict is hitting incredibly close to home for these members of our city.

Sioux Falls has continued to thrive by embracing and celebrating the many cultures that make up the fabric of Sioux Falls. Whether it’s through everyday conversation or sharing experiences at the multiple festivities that celebrate ethnic and cultural diversity in our community, there are many ways to learn about our cultures—and we need to continue to make the effort to do so. Get started today by simply visiting with a new coworker or neighbor. We have so much to gain as we learn from each other.

Let’s continue to embrace the diversity that is our city’s strength and celebrate the spirit of community that unites us as One Sioux Falls.

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