Mesa’s diversity conference drew 175 city employees, school officials, community leaders and other interested parties Wednesday, the largest crowd in its three-year history.
The conference, held at Centennial Hall, is Mesa’s observance of Race Equity Week, and this year’s theme was "Many Paths, One Destination: Best Practices in Diversity."
Keynote speaker and Arizona State University vice provost for academic affairs Louis Olivas used statistics to illustrate the path America and the East Valley’s population growth is taking toward greater diversity with a distinctly Hispanic tilt.
In just one of many figures he threw at the audience, Olivas said that between 1992 and 2001, minority enrollment at Mesa Community College jumped from 18 percent to 25 percent, and was basically responsible for enrollment growth, and the jobs and improvements that follow it.
"We have people at the community colleges saying, ‘Good God, if it weren’t for the minority population we wouldn’t have jobs,’ " he said.
Thanks to massive immigration and a tendency to have larger families, Hispanics are already changing the face of America and will continue to do so, he said.
Just under 20 percent of Mesa’s population as counted in the 2000 U.S. Census was Hispanic, 9 percentage points higher than in 1990.
Nationwide, the census counted 35.3 million Hispanics, and the projected number for 2040 is 143 million, Olivas said. "This has nothing to do with prophecy, this is demographics," he said.
Also on a national scale, Hispanics are becoming the largest minority within
their high school graduating classes, he said.
"Even with one of the most pathetic high school dropout rates in America, it’s still happening," he said.
Following Olivas’ speech, participants broke into smaller groups to learn about "best practices" for influencing youth, community outreach and participation, and building diverse workplaces.