21-Day Challenge Calendar

The 2021 DEI 21-day challenge has ended. Click one of the following dates to see the past materials.


Day One: MVCC's Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Meet a community member: Randy VanWagoner, President of MVCC

Community Spotlight:

Community Education/Workforce, Center for Corporate and Community Education

The Center for Corporate and Community Education (CCED) at MVCC is the Mohawk Valley's first choice for education, personal enrichment, and professional. Committed to providing a comprehensive array of programs and services that meet the needs of all members of the community, CCED provides opportunities for individual growth, employee skill upgrades, entrepreneur development, employer business enhancement, and more. From training sessions that serve individuals seeking to expand their strengths, to intensive workforce development programs that support major career shifts, CCED provides top-quality programs and services to help community members achieve their goals.

YouTube Video: MVCC Promise

Link: Job Corps Scholars

Job Corps Scholars Program is an equal opportunity program. We are committed to treating all applicants and team members fairly regardless of their race, national origin, sex, age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other classification protected by law.

TED Talk: What COVID Revealed about Schools and 4 Ways to rethink Education

Did you know? MVCC History
MVCC was established in 1946 to help train and educate veterans returning from World War II?

Day Two: Understanding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Meet community educational leaders:

Community Spotlight: Integrated Community Alternatives Network (ICAN)

Meet the ICAN Executive Leaders

Keeping Families Together

Integrated Community Alternatives Network, or ICAN, a not-for-profit organization, is a unique home and community-based network that provides individualized and non-traditional services and care to the highest risk individuals and families with social, emotional, mental health and behavioral challenges. We have been a mainstay in the Central New York Community for over 20 years.

Day Three: Cultural Awareness, Competency, and Dexterity

Meet a community member: Reverend Sharon Baugh, Hope Chapel AME Zion Church & Utica-Oneida and NAACP President

TED Talks:

Further Reference Books:

My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies by Resmaa Menakim
The body is where our instincts reside and where we fight, flee, or freeze, and it endures the trauma inflicted by the ills that plague society. Menakem argues this destruction will continue until Americans learn to heal the generational anguish of white supremacy, which is deeply embedded in all our bodies. Our collective agony doesn't just affect African Americans. White Americans suffer their own secondary trauma as well. So do blue Americans - our police.

Love is the Way: Holding on to Hope in Troubling Times by The Most Reverend Michael B. Curry
The way of love is essential for addressing the seemingly insurmountable challenges facing the world today: poverty, racism, selfishness, deep ideological divisions, competing claims to speak for God. This book will lead readers to discover the gifts they need in order to live the way of love: deep reservoirs of hope and resilience, simple wisdom, the discipline of nonviolence, and unshakable regard for human dignity.

Day Four: Establishing Roots and Building up Utica

Bosnians in Utica
Meet a community member: Sandro Sehic

Headshot of Sandro Sehic

Utica, NY, has been my home since 1995. The moment my family and I arrived in this spot of beautiful Upstate New York; we knew it was the place where we would build our new life.

Making a fresh start is a task both interesting and complicated. When I was a child, the United States of America was this great country that I dreamed of visiting one day, but everything I knew about it came from movies and popular culture.

One great challenge in adapting to my new life was learning English, I found myself at Thomas R. Proctor High School - a 16-year-old teenager from war-torn Bosna with no language proficiency whatsoever. As eager as I was to commence my education, I knew that the language barrier would be a major obstacle to obtaining my high school diploma. However, with the invaluable help of my teachers and counselors, I overcame this hurdle, learning to speak English by the time I graduated from high school.

After graduation, my primary concern became getting my PhD. this was a bold dream of an adolescent, but it kept pushing me to pursue further education, first at Mohawk Valley Community College and Utica College and later at Northcentral University and Grand Canyon University. My dream came true, and I am immensely grateful for it every day.

I understand that the success of all newly arrived immigrants greatly depends on acquiring English language skills as quickly as possible. This is the reason why teaching English and helping people from my community adapt to their new life have become my passions. Utica and Upstate New York have many beautiful things to offer newcomers. This corner of the United States is an incredible place to make a fresh start, raise a family, and receive good education, not to mention enjoy natural beauties and some of the best local cuisines in the country. Who can say no to all of this?

Community Spotlight: Our Bosnian Community

Group Picture of Our Bosnian Community

Mohawk Valley is a great place to live, work, and raise your family. Individuals can enjoy many things from breathtaking sceneries of the Indian Summers and Adirondack Mountains to the local cuisines and some of the best colleges and universities in the great state of New York. Our great community has been a home and the place where many different cultures came together to build something even greater. At Bosnian American Community Association (BACA) we aim to serve our community because we believe that our great community always deserves something better. We believe that our neighborhoods deserve to flourish, that younger generations deserve to prosper, that our elderly deserve respect and warmth, that local businesses deserve to succeed, and that we all deserve to be happy. As a place where thousands of refugees, including those from Bosnia, found refuge members of the Bosnian American Community Association (BACA) are blessed and thankful to call the Mohawk Valley their home. Many warm greetings from the members of the Bosnian American Community Association (BACA) and great Mohawk Valley Community.


Visit the Bosnian American Community Association (BACA) Facebook page here.

Did you know?

Bosnia makes some of the world's best coffee. See how to make it!

Day Five: Our International Community

Meet a community member: Shelly Callahan, Executive Director of the Center

Community Spotlight: Our Refugee Community

Website:The Center

The History of the Center

The Center (formerly The Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees) is located at 201 Bleecker Street, Utica, NY. TheCenter was incorporated in 1981 and has resettled about 16,500 refugees into the city of Utica. We are a premier resettlement site with wrap-around case management services at a one stop shop. We serve refugees, immigrants, and our community. Our services include refugee resettlement, immigration and citizenship services, traffic safety and car seat distribution, cultural competency training, language services (Tone Translation and Compass Interpreters), Office for New Americans programs, ESOL classes, community education, employment, and workforce development services, etc.
The Center is open daily Monday-Friday 8am-4pm.

Did you know? The Founding: ASSISTING THE VIETNAMESE

Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees (MVRCR) was officially established with the help of our first executive director, Roberta Douglas, her husband, a group of local clergies, the Superintendent of Utica Schools, the Oneida County Executive, and the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. This was in response to the war in Vietnam and the formal establishment of a federal program with the 1980 Refugee Act.

Day Six: Women in Sciences

Meet a community member: Melissa Barlett

Community Spotlight: WISE Women in Science Communities

TED Talk: Making Women in Science Visible

Click to View

Reading: The STEM Gap: Women and Girls in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math

This reading provides some easy-to-follow information about the gender gap in STEM, and links to much longer reports that provide real information, data, and suggestions of how to improve the problem.

Resource: 500 Women Scientists

This is a resource for journalists, educators, policy makers and others seeking the expertise of women and gender minorities STEM professionals.

Day Seven: Our Latinx Communities

Meet a community member: Sonia Martinez , Executive Director of the Mohawk Valley Latino Association

Youtube Video: LATINO: How you see me

Links: Mohawk Valley Latino Association


To improve the standards of living for all residents of the Mohawk Valley through various services that will educate and empower them. To achieve awareness among the different cultures of the Mohawk Valley. To help shape the minds of our youth and demonstrate to them the great opportunities available within the Mohawk Valley and our Nation.

Articles: Utica's Dominican Population Grows, And New Businesses Emerge

Almost a decade ago, Dominican-born Luis Inoa had a lucrative business in New York City selling textiles overseas. The then-60-year-old was living comfortably, but while visiting his wife's family in Utica, he saw the potential for investment and growth in the quiet city that seemed to him like a ghost town needing revival.

Newspaper in Spanish: CNY Latino

Did you know? Latinos in the Mohawk Valley
Hispanics have lived in the Mohawk Valley since the 1800s. The numbers began to grow in the early 20th century with the arrival of Spaniards, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans who worked on the canal, railroads, and local factories. The local Hispanic community is currently 60% Puerto Rican and 11% Dominican. The former has constituted the largest group of Hispanics for decades and the latter is one of the fastest growing groups in the county.

Day Eight: Our LGBTQ+ Community

Youtube Video: LGBTQ: How you see me

Readings/Articles: Transsexuality

Links: Gay Support Groups in Oneida County

TED Talk: The Danger Of Hiding Who You Are

Did you know? Community Action Opens Shelter for Youth
Mohawk Valley Community Action Agency has opened the first shelter for youth in Oneida County, with special support for LGBTQ youth and victims of human trafficking.

Day Nine: Our Muslim Community

Meet a community member: Shahida Dar, Professor Of Physics And Engineering Science At MVCC

Headshot of Shahida Dar

My name is Shahida Dar. I am a professor of physics and engineering science at MVCC. At the college I am part of the diversity council and have contributed to the workgroups responsible for creating and equitable hiring plan, and the DEI resource room. Recently, I have started working on creating inclusive curriculum. I am also the advisor of Muslim Student Association at the college. We hold events to spread awareness about Islamic faith and Muslims. In my opinion, DEI work is crucial for an organization because it ensures a just and balanced environment where everyone has an equal access to resources and opportunities.

Youtube Video: ARAB: How you see me

Article: Muslim Group Seeks to Expand in Cornhill

TED Talk: What it is Like to be a Muslim in America

When you look at Muslim scholar Dalia Mogahed, what do you see: A woman of faith? A scholar, a mom, a sister? Or an oppressed, brainwashed, potential terrorist? In this personal, powerful talk, Mogahed asks us, in this polarizing time, to fight negative perceptions of her faith in the media -- and to choose empathy over prejudice.

Burmese Muslim Association

Did you know? Mohawk Valley Muslim Community Association
The Muslim Association's plan to expand is another indication of the growing impact of Muslims on Utica, where more than 1-in-10 residents practice Islam thanks to the arrival of thousands of refugees over the past 15 years.

Day Ten: Our Mental and Emotional Outreach Community

Articles: Emotional Health vs. Mental Health: The Real Difference

Mental health involves processing all the information we encounter, but emotional health is more about the feelings provoked by the data processed. Emotional and mental health are related but markedly different.

Link: The Neighborhood center: Behavioral Health Care Services

Articles: Mental Health During the Pandemic: 1 Year On?

The early stages of the pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns were hard on all of us, in different ways. Isolation, joblessness, childcare, and many other challenges severely affected the mental well-being of many people around the world. Yet here we are, a year on. How are we coping?

Did you know? Community Collaborations
The Oneida County Health Department has over 20 collaborations with other organizations in the Rome-Utica area?

Day Eleven: Our Asian Communities

Youtube Video: ASIAN: How you see me

TED Talk: It Is (Past) Time to Appreciate Cultural Diversity

With tart humor, Hayley Yeates makes the case that investing in cultural diversity is just as important as fostering gender diversity.

Brief History of the Karen

Did you know? Karen Languages
The Karen alphabet is taken from letters from the Burmese alphabet but modified and adjusted to express the nuances in pronunciation and grammar distinct to the Karen Language. Speakers of Karen will refer to their language as S'gaw Karen or Pwo Karen. They are two distinct languages with some similar grammar and pronunciation.

Day Twelve: Our Law Enforcement Community

Rome Police Department
The Rome Police Department is comprised of 76 police officers and 2 civilians. In order to give our community, the best police services, our department has several specialized units, which consist of several divisions.

Utica Police Department
The Utica Police Department, in partnership with the community, endeavors to provide impartial, ethical, and professional law enforcement service and protection. We strive to maintain the trust and confidence of our citizens while working to improve the quality of life within the City.

Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative
In keeping with compliance of New York State Executive Order #203 issued by Governor Andrew Cuomo, which requires each local government entity which has a police agency operating with police officers as defined under 1.20 of the criminal procedure law to perform a comprehensive review of current police force deployments, strategies, policies, procedures, and practices, and develop a plan to improve such deployments, strategies, policies, procedures, and practices, for the purposes of addressing the particular needs of the communities served by such police agency and promote community engagement to foster trust, fairness, and legitimacy, and to address any racial bias and disproportionate policing of communities of color.

Local Law Enforcers Try to be Proactive on Reforms
In the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis [allegedly] at the hands of police officers, New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the Legislature have pushed through a series of law enforcement reforms.

TED Talk: The Coproduction of Public Safety

We all want to be safe, and our safety is intertwined, says Tracie Keesee, cofounder of the Center for Policing Equity. Sharing lessons, she's learned from 25 years as a police officer, Keesee reflects on the public safety challenges faced by both the police and local neighborhoods, especially in the African American community, as well as the opportunities we all have to preserve dignity and guarantee justice. We must move forward together. There's no more us versus them, Keesee says

Did you know? Utica 311
This link helps residents and citizens to communicate with the city to report issues and problems without have to worry about which department to contact.

Day Thirteen: Our Corporate Community

Meet a community member: Dr. Shanelle R. Benson Reid, President and CEO of ACCESS Global Group, is a Consultant, Coach, Author, Professional Speaker and Candidate for Onondaga County Legislature, District 14.

Dr. Shanelle R. Benson Reid, President and CEO of ACCESS Global Group, is a Consultant, Coach, Author, Professional Speaker and Candidate for Onondaga County Legislature, District 14. Her expertise is in areas of Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Equity in Education and Employment, Cultural Competency, Social Awareness, Trauma-Informed and Person-Centered Care and Community / Individual Empowerment. At ACCESS Global, we believe in creating equitable and inclusive environments by promoting and increasing the human connection, compassion, and overall effectiveness of our client's community with custom designed programs. Our trauma informed pedagogy focuses on lived experiences as sources of knowledge to design leadership and professional development series that transform the permeating cultures of your organization. With over 20 years of experience in equity teaching for the support of marginalized communities in private and public industries, AGG has developed the Diversity and Inclusion for Community Equity series, (D.I.C.E.), a collaborative program that invites leadership to look inward in order to lead outward.

Benefits Of Creating A Diverse Workforce
There is a great deal of research showing the benefits of diversity in companies. A 2017 Boston Consulting Group (BCG) study identified diversity as a key driver of innovation, finding that diverse teams produce 19% more revenue.

The Importance of Diversity in the Workplace
What is a diversified workplace?

TED Talk: How to Design Gender Bias Out of Your Workplace

Did you know, Chobani promotes and supports a diverse workplace? Diversity and Inclusion: Access for All

Building on a Foundation of Diversity and Inclusion

Since day one, we've promoted diversity and inclusivity within our workforce because we know that our communities are stronger when people are given opportunities and access. Our vision is to have an employee base representative of the communities we live in and a culture of respect and recognition for our diverse employees at Chobani-fostering a spirit of inclusivity for all.

Day Fourteen: Ableism and our Community

Meet a community member: Tamara Mariotti

Community Spotlight: Understanding What Ableism Is

A Disability Conversation:

A Disability Conversation: Ableism is discrimination and social prejudice against people with disabilities and/or people who are perceived to be disabled. Ableism characterizes people who are defined by their disabilities as inferior to the non-disabled.

YouTube Videos and Resource:

Website: Access Living

Abelism Clips:

Forbes Article: Words Matter and Its Time to Explore the Meaning of Ableism by Andrew Pulrang

Squirmy and GrubsMedia Link: An Inter-Abled Couple Share Their Life And Relationship

Did you know? Things People With Disability Wish You Knew

Day Fifteen: Our Veteran Community


YouTube Video: Veterans at Work

TED Talk: Our lonely society makes it hard to come home from war

Sebastian Junger has seen war up close, and he knows the impact that battlefield trauma has on soldiers. But he suggests there's another major cause of pain for veterans when they come home: the experience of leaving the tribal closeness of the military and returning to an alienating and bitterly divided modern society

We train soldiers for war. Let's train them to come home, too

Before soldiers are sent into combat, they're trained on how to function in an immensely dangerous environment. But they also need training on how to return from the battlefield to civilian life, says psychologist Hector Garcia. Applying the same principles used to prepare soldiers for war, Garcia is helping veterans suffering from PTSD get their lives back.

Did you know?
There are 96 military and veterans' organizations in the greater Utica metro area, including the cities of Utica and Rome. Combined, these Utica metro veteran organizations employ 190 people, earn more than $5 million in revenue each year, and have assets of $9 million.

Day Sixteen: Youth and our Community

Meet a community member: Bruce Hairston

Community Spotlight: YMCA

Bruce's Bio: Bruce Hairston's Bio

Bruce was born and raised in Teaneck NJ. He graduated from Teaneck High School and later attended Ramapo State College. Bruce moved to Rome NY in 1988. Bruce is married to Deborah Hairston and has two children from his previous marriage. His children, Torie and Mason both attended Gansevoort Elementary School, (Go Gators!) which to this day he attributes to their success as students and well-rounded individuals. His daughter Torie graduated from Rome Catholic in 2010 and went on to receive her bachelor's degree at Elmira University in 2014 and her masters two years later from Long Island University as a Forensic Social Worker. My son Mason graduated from RFA in 2013 attended MVCC for two years, graduated with his associates and went on to Cortland University to receive his bachelors in Sports Science.

Bruce worked at HP Hood in Vernon NY for 13 years in a number of capacities, before being promoted to Foreman and later became Chief Shop Steward for Teamsters Local 182 bargaining unit employees. From there he was asked to be a Business Agent and Trustee for Local 182 and represented 20 different bargaining units and over 500 employees.

In January 2006, Bruce began his career at the Rome YMCA. He was hired in a new role as Community Relations Director and from there was promoted to VP of Activate America and then promoted to Regional VP of Program Services for the Oneida and Rome Branches. He was later promoted to Branch Director in Rome and then given the title as Multi Team Leader at the Rome YMCA. Bruce has always had a passion for working with children of all ages and continues his hands on approach today. He coach's basketball, he is a certified basketball official with IAABO Board 51 out of Utica for over 12 years and was also certified as a High School Football official through the Mohawk Valley Association.

Bruce has created and started a number of programs for youth of all ages during his time at the Y. Just to name a few; The Tri-Valley Playaz Boys AAU Program in collaboration with RFA Varsity Coach Nick Medicis, Tri-Valley Rebel Girls AAU Program in collaboration with Jonathan Roland's, Teen Leaders, Strategic Teen Enrichment Program with RFA and Strough students, Make A Splash Initiative, Teen Basketball League, Youth Boxing Program and the Learn to Play Sports Series, for 4-6 year olds to name some. Bruce continues working closely with various groups, such as MVCC, Cornell Co-op Extension, the City of Rome, and other organizations for the benefit of our youth in the community.

He is a member of the Rome Chamber Education Committee, Rome College Foundation, Rome School Equity Diversity Task Force, Rome PD Community Advisory Board, and a member of the Mohawk Valley Strategic Impact Committee.

Recommended Readings:

  • White Fragility by Robin Diangelo
  • Tears We Cannot Stop by Michael Eric Dyson

Informative Resource Link: YWCA Stand Against Racism

Did you know?
The YMCA invented basketball, volleyball, racquetball, and founded Fathers and Mother's Day.

Day Eighteen: Local Black/African American History

Newspaper Articles and Clippings of the early days of NAACP:



Additional references:

Did you know?
The Jervis Library in Rome is ready to help you if you have any research interests? Have a specific topic of interest? Doing some research on family genealogy or local history? Contact Jervis Library at 315-336-4570 or at askjpl@jervislibrary.org for assistance!

Day Nineteen: Justice

Community Spotlight: Celebrating Juneteenth

Utica’s Juneteenth Celebration to Take Place at Chancellor Park

Video: Juneteenth: What it is and how to celebrate it

Video: Why celebrating Juneteenth is more important now than ever

Article: Washington now recognizes Juneteenth, but there's more to the story

Ted Talk: Hasan Kwame Jeffries

To move forward in the United States, we must look back and confront the difficult history that has shaped widespread injustice. Revisiting a significant yet overlooked piece of the past, Hasan Kwame Jeffries emphasizes the need to weave historical context, no matter how painful, into our understanding of modern society -- so we can disrupt the continuum of inequality massively affecting marginalized communities.

Did you know?
Justice in June is a great source. This resource was compiled by Autumn Gupta with Bryanna Wallace's oversight for the purpose of providing a starting place for individuals trying to become better allies. Justice in June cultivates a community rooted in truth, inspires action, and is committed to awareness.

Day Twenty: Poverty and our Communities

Meet a community member: Melissa Wines

Meet a local photographer: Sylvia de Swaan

Community Spotlight: Mohawk Valley Action Agency

Website: Mohawk Valley Community Action Agency

Ted Talk: Public Schools and Poverty

Why should a good education be exclusive to rich kids? Schools in low-income neighborhoods across the US, specifically in communities of color, lack resources that are standard at wealthier schools -- things like musical instruments, new books, healthy school lunches and soccer fields -- and this has a real impact on the potential of students.

Day Twenty-One: Ageism and our Communities - Let's keep Building our Village!!!

Article: How Does Ageism Impact More Than Just Older Adults?

Ageism is a type of discrimination that involves prejudice against people based on their age. Similar to racism and sexism, ageism involves holding negative stereotypes about people of different ages.

TED Talk: Let's End Ageism

It's not the passage of time that makes it so hard to get older. It's ageism, a prejudice that pits us against our future selves -- and each other. Ashton Applewhite urges us to dismantle the dread and mobilize against the last socially acceptable prejudice. Aging is not a problem to be fixed or a disease to be cured, she says. It is a natural, powerful, lifelong process that unites us all.

TED Talks: The secret to living longer may be your social life

The Italian island of Sardinia has more than six times as many centenarians as the mainland and ten times as many as North America. Why? According to psychologist Susan Pinker, it's not a sunny disposition or a low-fat, gluten-free diet that keeps the islanders healthy -- it's their emphasis on close personal relationships and face-to-face interactions. Learn more about super longevity as Pinker explains what it takes to live to 100 and beyond.

Did you know?
What is the average age of people living in Oneida County? Oneida County, New York Population 2021