Community Connections: Support for Integrated Community | SteamboatToday.com

Community Connections: Support for Integrated Community

Roddy Beall/For Steamboat Pilot & Today

Steamboat Springs is a special place. High in the Rockies, we are surrounded by natural beauty: blue skies, fresh water and a caring, creative community. People are drawn here from all over the nation and around the world. As we look around us, we can see neighbors from every continent.

Integrated Community started around 2004 at a local bookstore, and at that time, it was actually the only place in town Spanish-speakers could communicate. Since then, our town has continued to grow and change, and this flexible non-profit has grown and changed with it. Last year, Integrated Community served 753 clients from 24 different countries.

"I have met kids from Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Vietnam, China, Tibet," said Lisa Ruff, Steamboat Springs High School English teacher. "We are all valued members of this Integrated Community."

Soda Creek Elementary teacher Ann Coon added Steamboat's multiculturalism shows up more brightly in the schools than anywhere else.

"Our second language population has grown considerably in the last four to five years," she said. "They bring so much to Soda Creek and to everyone's learning."

High school teacher Dani Booth calls it a "fun challenge" that in one of her classes, she has students from seven different countries speaking five different languages.

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So, how do we rise to the challenge of such a diverse community?

First, Integrated Community offers English tutors for children and adults. With our English program, we connect a community member with an English language learner, and they are able to meet once a week to improve their English.

"Antonio and I have been meeting for five years," says volunteer tutor Ben Beall. "We have fun doing it, and we've become friends over the past five years."

Second, we send professional interpreters anywhere in town to help English speakers communicate with their patients and clients.

"As a physical therapist, we need to communicate with our patients." said Lindsay Scott, of Kinetic Energy PT. "Having the interpreter allows us to communicate, and we're able to make them better faster."

Carla Portigal, of Mind Springs Health, said, "Integrated Community has helped us work with a whole population of resilient people that have come into this country. Being able to help them find their strengths has been an amazing experience, and we couldn't do it without the interpreters."

Finally, our office, at the 443 Oak Street Non-Profit Center, provides a place for immigrants to seek answers to any kind of question.

"We support Integrated Community, because they really focus on our core mission areas: early childhood education, at risk youth, self-sufficiency and health," said Kate Nowak, Routt County United Way executive director. "Integrated Community does such a great job of reaching all those areas."

How do we ensure families have healthy, productive lives? How do we make this world a better place? Steamboat is such a great town because of all the programs we have here. Integrated Community is building bridges between families and the programs available to them. We want families to succeed; we want kids to succeed and grow to be the next generation, because they are our future.

If you live in an Integrated Community, as I do, then please consider making charitable donations on Yampa Valley Gives Day, Tuesday Dec. 8. Yampa Valley Gives Day is the perfect annual opportunity to support your favorite local non-profits, which create a lifeline for so many families and are often the heartbeat of activity in the Yampa Valley.

Roddy Beall is interpretation/translation coordinator for Integrated Community.