From an inclusive playground to a lifelong learning program, this Iowa city works hard to make everyone feel welcome.
Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are more than buzzwords in Ames/Story County.>
The community is committed to creating a more thoughtful and inclusive environment for all residents and visitors. One of the most recent efforts in this area was the construction of a state-of-the-art inclusive playground, Ames Miracle Playground and Field.>
The newly finished project was sponsored through donations and grants and offers dozens of features for children of all ages and abilities.>
The playground is just one of many ways the community ensures residents â€“ all residents â€“ are of top priority. Another example is The Arc of Story County, which provides advocacy and support for families and those with intellectual and developmental disabilities as they learn, work, play and grow.>
Would you believe Ames, IA has even more up its sleeve? The community works tirelessly to offer a variety of DEI training and learning opportunities.
A Playground Built for All in Ames, IA
Approximately 16% of Story County’s population falls between the ages of 0 and 18. The Ames Miracle Playground and Field was built as a place where all kids and their families can have a place to gather.
The fairytale-like park has fun features for curious kids, including little critters (think: an artistic ladybug on a rock wall) that are incorporated into the playground, making for a fun scavenger hunt.
Other features include rubber turf, a cozy dome to provide a quiet space to retreat to, and zero-entry access throughout the park.
To bring the dream to life, countless community members did their part in fundraising. The park’s original price tag was $1.5 million, but as donations poured in, that number continued to drop. NBA player and Ames native Harrison Barnes and his wife, Brittany, contributed $300,000 to the playground.
The Rotary Club named the park its “centennial project,” raising money for it in conjunction with its 100-year celebration. Middle school children created and sold bracelets to raise money, and local businesses chipped in, too. “It was a labor of love for the community,” says past Chair of The Ames Foundation Lynne Carey.
An Active Retirement Community in Story County
Those who have chosen to retire in Ames are embedded in the community.
At Green Hills, a 55+ Life Plan Community in Ames that provides residents with quality care, comfort and community, members participate in activities organized by the Ames Community Arts Council and Ames Main Street District.
Those age 50 and older who want to expand their knowledge in a wide variety of topics can take part in the Iowa State University Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI).
Amid the pandemic, classes moved to an online format and remained popular, says Jerilyn Logue with the ISU Alumni Association, who oversees the program. Members told Logue the Zoom gatherings helped them stay connected with their community.
History, science, literature and technology are among the most popular classes offered through OLLI. Some faculty members teach courses for the program every session and have garnered fans of their teaching style.
“Each of them has a following,” Logue says.
Community Comes Together for Diversity Symposium
The annual Symposium on Building Inclusive Organizations is a collaboration between Iowa State University, the City of Ames and the Ames Chamber of Commerce that allows participants to create, manage and optimize diversity and inclusion within the City of Ames’ programs and services.
“We have many local business partners that sponsor and attend because of the efforts we take to create a positive event and learning environment,” says Events Coordinator with the Ames Chamber of Commerce, Sarah Dvorsky.
The event is set up so someone who is new to DEI within the workplace can join and be comfortable, she says. But those seasoned in DEI, in and out of the workplace, can benefit, as well.
Past sessions have included: “How to Achieve True Inclusion After You Diversify,” “Unlearning Isms” and “Creating a Culture of Dignity.”
“Our attendees enjoy this event,” Dvorsky says. “It’s an opportunity to have difficult conversations in an environment that is set up for learning and growing.”
Want to learn more about Ames and Story County? Check out the newest edition of Livability Ames/Story County, Iowa.