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'It's a small word and it means a lot of different things': Inclusion summit looks to find new ways to welcome immigrants to Kentucky

Josh James

An annual daylong summit geared toward helping Kentuckians get a better grasp on the challenges immigrants and refugees face has been going strong for a decade now.

Participants bounce ideas and experiences off one another in one of the rooms in Frederick Douglas High School hosting a session during this year’s Kentucky Refugee and Immigrant Inclusion Summit

"We talk about inclusion. It's a small word and it means a lot of different things. It can be applied in a lot of different ways," says Melissa Coulston with Kentucky Refugee Ministries.

The day is all about digging deeper into what that word looks like in practice – whether it’s in employment, healthcare, or simply welcoming an immigrant or refugee family to your neighborhood.

At this year’s event, session topics range from mentoring immigrant students to an interactive resettlement simulation that puts attendees in the shoes of people trying to orient themselves to a new country.

Organizers say over these ten years, many of the hurdles faced by immigrants remain the same. There is one exception though – and that’s immigration law.

"We do that every year pretty much because that's, sadly, such a political topic," says Lindsay Mattingly, the District Family and Community liaison with Fayette County Public Schools. "Immigration law changes frequently."

She says the inclusion summit steers clear of politics and focuses instead on the more real-time, hands-on ways the community can make a difference.

"We may not be able to move the needle a whole lot, or feel like we can move the needle a whole lot on that national level when it comes to immigration law, but there are a lot of things every person can do within their community to make their neighbors feel welcome," Mattingly adds.

As for the summit itself, Mattingly says it only continues to grow every year.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.