VALPARAISO | The city's Advisory Human Relations Council agreed Tuesday to meet with officials from the Valpo Next initiative, which seeks to develop a vision of how Valparaiso should look for the next 10, 20 or 30 years.
“Valpo Next is a fairly formal process and maybe there should be a human relations plank in that plan,” Council Chair Ivan Bodensteiner said.
Council members plan to meet with Valpo Next co-chairs Elizabeth Lynn and Matt Evans on or before April 22, which is the date of the council's next regular monthly meeting.
One of the topics they want to focus on is the image and perception of Valparaiso regarding issues of diversity. While the media publicizes negative racial incidents, it does not report the positive interactions, council member Bill Lewis said.
Bodensteiner agreed it's important to get positive stories out that will help determine the city's image, and not rely on the media.
The council also discussed connecting with other groups who have a stake in matters of diversity and can take an active role to foster inclusion.
Some of these include the YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County, United Way, Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce, Porter County Community Foundation, Porter Regional Hospital, Northwest Indiana Realtors, companies that employ large numbers of people, and county officials.
The council also is looking at playing more of an active role in promoting human relations initiatives in the Valparaiso Community Schools.
Bodensteiner said he was impressed with the work of Danny Lackey, director of diversity and student support for Merrillville High School.
He suggested the human relations council invite Lackey to speak at one of its meetings.
As the head of the Socially Together and Naturally Diverse club, or STAND, Lackey has raised awareness about the value of diversity and helped boost students’ appreciation of it.