United Way forms diversity development academy

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Last edited 4:48 p.m., Jan. 26, 2021

United Way of the Ozarks is launching a diversity development academy for nonprofit leaders and Springfield Police Department employees.

Dubbed the United Academy for Inclusion and Belonging, the program will encompass six virtual, two-day training sessions during the first quarter, according to a news release. The academy starts this month.

“The collaborative partners in this project make up hundreds of nonprofit professionals, volunteers and police officers dedicated to improving the quality of life for everyone in our community. In public service, we must ensure that every person seeking assistance, either from a nonprofit or from the police, is treated with dignity and respect," said Cindy Beecher, director of administration for United Way, in the release. "By bringing racism to the forefront of discussions and examining it as a personal, professional and societal problem that we can face together, the Springfield area will be one step closer to becoming the diverse and inclusive community that we aspire to be.”

The program utilizes resources from Missouri State University's Facing Racism Institute, a program centered on racism, its history and ways to mitigate it. United Way’s program is funded through a $18,900 diversity, equity and inclusion grant from Community Foundation of the Ozarks Inc.

Juan Meraz, MSU's vice president for diversity and inclusion, will teach the academy classes via Zoom, according to the release.

United Way President and CEO Greg Burris said the program would help foster diversity improvements in the local workforce.

"The forces of racism and inequity affect us all, but there is a lack of shared awareness that prevents well-meaning professionals from truly making progress toward creating a more equitable community," he said in the release.

Burris said via email this morning that the grant for the initial academy allows 300 participants for the six classes. He said future academies are in the works, dependent on funding.