Westmoreland surveys residents on attitudes toward racial, ethnic diversity
Westmoreland County's future businesses must include a diverse workforce or risk decline, said Latrobe City Manager Alex Graziani.
“Communities that embrace diversity and ethnic differences ... are the ones who develop more quickly than others,” he said.
As the Census Bureau projects a minority of non-Hispanic whites by 2050, Westmoreland Community Action is working to collect data with Seton Hill University and research how local residents perceive racial and ethnic diversity.
The project, which is the first of its kind in a county that is made up of 94.8 percent white residents, has completed about half of 17 focus group discussions centering on prevailing notions about race, said Carlotta Paige, a program coordinator serving as a consultant with Westmoreland Community Action.
“We will use it to make recommendations and look at the perception of diversity versus the reality,” she said.
The study, “Confronting the Challenge of Diversity in Westmoreland County,” held one of those focus groups last week in Latrobe. Graziani helped to facilitate the event.
The group of six people were directed to frankly answer 10 questions during a 90-minute discussion in Adams Memorial Library.
“For me, it's an important subject,” Graziani said. “Diversity, as we look across the country, is certainly an element of economic growth.”
With the observance this year of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech after the March on Washington and other news events, race “is still an issue in this country,” he said.
Volunteers are sometimes difficult to find for the groups, which are kept “homogeneous” with all white, black, Hispanic or Asian participants to allow them to feel comfortable to speak freely, Paige said.
“It's a challenge because it's a sensitive issue, and in some cases people are reluctant to talk about it,” she said.
Graziani gave an example question: “Do you think we're a county that's open or embracing of people who are different?”
The research completed with information from the small groups will be compiled to help inform a written survey that researchers will circulate to the public, hoping to reach 2,500 people combined through the groups and the survey.
The data will then be analyzed near the end of the year by a team at Seton Hill University led by associate professor David Droppa.
“We will craft a set of recommendations for key stakeholders in the community,” he said.
The study was partially funded by a $4,000 grant by Vibrant Pittsburgh, an organization established in December 2010 to focus on attracting, retaining, welcoming and elevating resources for diverse residents, said Melanie Harrington, president and CEO.
“We think that the information (the Westmoreland study) will gather could end up benefiting more than just Westmoreland County, but also neighboring counties as well,” she said, reflecting regional concerns beyond the urban center in Pittsburgh.
The grant program has awarded more than $100,000 to community groups and projects such as the one in Westmoreland County, said Adriana Dobrzycka, community outreach and inclusion manager.
She said the study was deemed worthy of a grant in order to gauge thoughts about race and ethnicity, especially to facilitate the best way for any necessary improvements in race and ethnic relations.
“It was important to have a study and assessment, really a moment to stop and reflect on the data and the story the data told, then develop action,” she said. “This is the first step in a bigger effort.”
The focus groups, which have been held in Derry, Monessen, Murrysville and Youngwood, will continue through the fall, Paige said. The next is not yet scheduled, but a few more for the Greensburg and Hempfield areas are in the works, she said.
Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Hempfield Township man dies in 1-vehicle accident
- Murrysville woman apologizes for scholarship fund theft
- 4 seek 3 nominations for Southwest Greensburg council
- Discord between Westmoreland commissioner, controller draws 2nd criminal inquiry
- Jeannette’s Monsour Medical Center demolition costs might go down