Rustbelt Revitalized

Member Spotlight: Dayton, OH

We value being an inclusive city no matter who you love, what you believe, or where you're from.

- Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley

Impact of Welcoming

Welcoming efforts in Dayton have included a focus on receiving communities engagement. In one example, Dayton Public Schools established a Welcoming Center to help immigrant children with academic performance and socialization. Programming includes individualized mentoring and tutoring with community volunteers. It is a reciprocal relationship, for the students enrich the lives of the mentors as much as the mentors help the students. 

“To know that I can help accelerate a student’s learning, share my culture with other people, and help them acclimate into the United States is really important to me,” said volunteer mentor Melissa Bertolo, who is also the city’s Welcome Dayton coordinator. 

Since the creation of the Welcome Dayton Plan, Dayton has seen revitalized neighborhoods and business corridors, along with a significant increase in the number of immigrants settling in the city, which has helped to offset over 20 years of rapid population decline; now, local population and tax revenue decline has all but halted. 

I have made Dayton my home. There are a lot of opportunities for my family and me. We belong to a community, a group that values and accepts other people. This is part of being human. You need a community, and you need a home. This is my family, and these are my people.

- Jacques Kahindo

The Welcome Dayton Plan

Dayton’s community-wide initiative – guided by the Welcome Dayton plan – was designed to attract, retain, and engage immigrants in the city. The plan, adopted unanimously by the city council, includes programs that provide marketing support for specific neighborhoods that have become hubs of immigrant entrepreneurship; community gatherings that create dialogue and empathy between U.S-born and immigrant residents; recommendations for educating immigrants about social services, and increase access to ESL and literacy courses. These efforts make immigrant residents feel part of their broader community and ensure they and their children can fully participate as community members and builders. Equally important to the work is the process that led to the plan, which continues to bring together numerous immigrant and receiving community partners through a series of task forces to ensure the plan’s goals are carried out. 

The Welcome Dayton Plan is a consensus of the goals and recommendations of over one hundred individuals and representatives of a wide array of immigrant, public, and private groups who voluntarily came together to discuss how to engage Dayton's new residents in revitalizing neighborhoods and how to work together to help Dayton become a center for world commerce.

The plan was developed based on recommendations from four sub-committees covering business and economic development, local government and the justice system, social and health services, and community, culture, arts and education.

The Welcome Dayton Plan is designed to act as a framework for action; it is a way forward for not only city government but also for the entire community. 

Read the Plan

We’ve all been newcomers at one point, whether it was moving to a new neighborhood, starting a new school or job, or even going to a place we hadn’t visited before. When we think about these experiences, we can typically point to whether or not we felt welcomed. Given that we’ve all personally felt being the newcomer, why would we not want to welcome?

Immigrant Impact

40%
Dayton’s immigrant population increased 40% between 2011 and 2012, compared to a 7% increase for Ohio overall.
$1.3B
Income generated by immigrant-owned businesses annually from 2006 to 2010.
$15M
Dayton’s immigrant population contributed over $15 million in state and local taxes in 2012.

A 2013 study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation recognized Welcome Dayton’s immigrant welcoming approach as a key strategy for building prosperity, noting that its efforts are already attracting new immigrants to the city, helping to reverse population decline, and revitalizing dormant business districts.

In many ways, Dayton’s new immigrant-friendly city initiative is a model of building on organic success. 

Faced with a new source of population, Dayton’s community and business leaders have moved to improve the overall environment of support for new Americans, and help immigrants with a dream of entrepreneurship unleash their potential—creating jobs and revitalizing communities in need of a new economic spark.

Read the Report

This report reaffirms what we in Dayton already know: our cities and economy are stronger when we allow people to fully integrate into our communities. We are proud to again be recognized as a model for the national welcoming movement that is vital to the country’s success.

- Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley

Dayton in the News

Dayton bucks a population decline

NPR's Marketplace

 

How the Rust Belt is repopulating itself

The Huffington Post

 

Dayton mayor signs letter welcoming refugees

Dayton Daily News

Q&A with Melissa Bertolo of Welcome Dayton

Q: Why is creating a welcoming community important to you?

A: We can talk about the economic impact or even from a national security perspective that welcoming and integrating is a positive benefit to our communities. But for me, I like to think about how migration is a human experience. 
We’ve all been newcomers at one point, whether it was moving to a new neighborhood, starting a new school or job, or even going to a place we hadn’t visited before. When we think about these experiences, we can typically point to whether or not we felt welcomed. Given that we’ve all personally felt being the newcomer, why would we not want to welcome?

Q: How does Welcome Dayton help transform communities?

A: Welcome Dayton has five focus areas (business & economic development; community, culture, & arts; education; government & justice; and health & social services) that address immigrant integration and engage both the receiving community and immigrant/refugee communities to create change and a cultural shift.
Welcome Dayton works at the institutional and systems level as well as the micro and community level. Examples of our work ranges from creating and implementing a language-access policy to hosting community conversations and events.

Q: Do you have an example of your favorite welcoming success story?

A: Belmont High School has experienced dramatic demographic changes over the past ten years, going from 125 English language learners (ELL) to nearly 1,000. The ELL population also has become much more diverse. Ten years ago, 95 percent spoke Spanish, whereas now less than 50 percent speak Spanish and over 20 other languages are represented. With the demographic changes occurring, we wanted to ensure that students were feeling welcomed and that the domestic students had an opportunity to be involved in the global diversity at the school.

We recently created the Welcome Belmont program that pairs ELL students with domestic students as cultural collaborators. Together, they participate in various activities both inside and outside of school. Examples include a ropes course, the Dayton ballet, a field trip to the Freedom Center in Cincinnati, as well as study tables and service projects. We’re entering into the second year and are looking forward to going deeper with the program and including more reflection and discussion-based activities.

Evaluation has demonstrated that Welcome Belmont has resulted in increased cultural competence of the participants as well as the beginning of a cultural shift where ELLs and domestic-born students are more likely to interact with each other. For me, the highlight has been that the Welcome Belmont students eat lunch together on their own accord. I think that’s a pretty big accomplishment in high school!
Welcome Dayton works at the institutional and systems level as well as the micro and community level. Examples of our work ranges from creating and implementing a language-access policy to hosting community conversations and events.

Q: How has Welcoming America been a resource to you?

A: The network that Welcoming America has provided has been incredibly important to the work being done in Dayton. I’ve been able to meet people from so many other cities and initiatives that are engaged in similar work, and this has helped us hone our best practices and learn from others. It has been a great resource to be able to reach out to members through the forum or by personally picking up the phone and making a connection on issues that we’re both facing.

It’s important to welcome because…

It’s the right thing to do!

Join Us in Building a Nation of Neighbors