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S.L. County launches campaign to celebrate diversity, encourage inclusion

Published: Wednesday, May 28 2014 5:19 p.m. MDT

Josie Valdez, Zemin Xiao and Ellie Goldberg look at a photo on phone following a nondiscrimination campaign announcement in Salt Lake City, Wednesday, May 28, 2014.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams challenged residents Wednesday to step outside their "comfort zones" to learn about people who are different than they are.

"That's what our inclusion campaign is all about," McAdams said Wednesday, announcing details of the new initiative.

"The goal of the mayor's inclusion campaign is simple and straightforward: Everyone who walks through our doors at Salt Lake County or interacts with any part of Salt Lake County government is welcome and respected here," he said.

To help achieve that end, all county employees will undergo diversity training presented by the Mayor's Office of Diversity Affairs.

Salt Lake County also plans to post signs in every county facility that state that the county celebrates diversity and inclusion. The county's Council on Diversity Affairs, an advisory panel, recommended the training and awareness campaign.

Rebecca Sanchez, the mayor's Diversity Affairs director, said the training asks participants to reflect on experiences in which they have been excluded.

"When everybody goes to that place and knows how it feels, then they can identify, 'Oh my gosh, that's how I might be treating somebody else just because they look different or I don't know them.' So we take them through that," Sanchez said.

The training also asks participants to take ownership of how they can embrace diversity, she said.

"I think it hits to the heart of it and then they come up with their own strategies. I don't tell them exactly what to do. They come up with their own strategies how to be inclusive in their own departments," Sanchez said.

The training, available online, is available to anyone in the community. McAdams invited all people in Salt Lake County to take part.

As the nation has witnessed a number of high-profile incidents of public figures expressing intolerant views in recent weeks, the campaign enables county employees to address the issues in a proactive manner, he said.

"Too often, issues of diversity and conversation and dialogues about diversity surround controversy. What we're trying to do is say is, 'Let's get out ahead of the curve.' Maybe we're not ahead of the curve but we're saying that conversations about inclusion and diversity can happen before we're reacting to something internally. Let's have that conversation now and make it a positive thing," McAdams said.

It is important to talk about inclusion because Salt Lake County has become increasingly diverse, he said, describing the community as "a modern day savory stew pot featuring flavors from around the world."

More than 100 languages are spoken in the schools countywide, he noted.

"People from different cultures and ethnic backgrounds come here and call Salt Lake County home for a variety of reasons. But they share a universal desire, a desire for a safe, healthy and bright future for our families. That diversity here in Salt Lake County contributes to us being a thriving metropolitan region, one that I hope retains a small-town feel."

Email: marjorie@deseretnews.com

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