Press Room

Seeking Community in Alexandria

Inclusion Network and LGBT group work to create inclusive atmosphere, promote education.  (Echo Press 1-26-2018)

Fighting Racism

To kick off the launch of Racial Equity Minnesota on Wednesday, Pillsbury House Theatre’s Breaking Ice Company performed at Alexandria Technical and Community College and pointedly shared the impact of diversity inclusion, equity advocacy and the power of words. (Amy Chaffins/Echo Press)

Fighting racism

Although their number was small, about 50 people, their goal was big: Changing people’s perceptions about race and celebrating the efforts across the state that are addressing the issue.
The local Inclusion Network hosted a half-day workshop in Alexandria Wednesday to launch its partnership with Racial Equity Minnesota (REM) – a new statewide network offering services, resources and tools to help communities address racial equity.

REM is a non-profit entity with nine member-organizations, including Alexandria’s Inclusion Network, that have qualified for membership by meeting a set of standards related to experience, expertise and proven results.

Their overall goal: Promoting racial equity in the workplace and in educational and community settings.

Wednesday’s launch event at Alexandria Technical and Community College featured a dramatic performance and dialogue by Pillsbury House Theatre’s Breaking Ice Company. The actors presented skits about the power of language, setting the tone for diversity inclusion in the community and the importance of accountability.

The afternoon included breakout sessions highlighting services available through REM, including trainings for businesses, government agencies, education institutions and community organizations. REM’s nine-member organizations offer customized trainings, equipping people with skills to address racial equity. For example, Alexandria’s Inclusion Network offers programming, trainings and presentations for workplaces, classrooms, nonprofits and community organizations.

Steve Pederson, an executive member of Inclusion Network, said, “Whether a business is seeking to improve the work environment or retain employees, a school is dealing with bullying or exclusion, or an organization is looking to make its community more inclusive, Racial Equity Minnesota can help deliver positive outcomes and solutions.”

Workshop participants included local residents and people from higher education, law enforcement, local nonprofits, business and more.

Some powerful points presented included:

● Racism is learned and it can be unlearned.

● People can change through dialogue.

● Diversity inclusion should not be on the shoulders of people of color; it’s for everyone to bring to the table.

● Challenge yourself to understand the lens other people use to see the world.

● Be willing to be accountable and stand up for what’s right.

● Racism is not a big impossible thing – it can be talked about in a sensible and mature way.

● Language is powerful.

Along with Inclusion Network, REM members also include: AMAZE, Antiracism Study-Dialogue Circles, Community Action Duluth, People’s Institute North, Pillsbury House Theatre, Rochester Diversity Council, Shared Vision of Bemidji and Minneapolis YWCA. The network is being launched with financial and technical support from The St. Paul Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.


Racial Equity Minnesota celebrates launch of new statewide network

ECHO PRESS - October 2, 2013

Racial Equity Minnesota celebrates launch of new statewide network A new statewide network to address racial equity in the workplace and educational and community settings will celebrate its formal launch in Alexandria on Wednesday, November 6 from 12:15 to 4 p.m. at Alexandria Technical and Community College. Racial Equity Minnesota offers comprehensive, one-stop shopping for high-quality services, useful resources and tools, and ongoing support to address racial equity. The event in Alexandria, hosted by the Alexandria Inclusion Network features a performance by Pillsbury House Theatre’s award-winning Breaking Ice Company plus brief breakout sessions highlighting services available through Racial Equity Minnesota network members. The launch event is free and open to anyone who wants to sample the network’s offerings. To register, e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (507) 202-9888.

Taking The Bully By The Horns

Published August 21, 2013, 12:00 AM

Taking the bully by the horns


By: Crystal Dey, Alexandria Echo Press


The Inclusion Network (IN) hosted the powwow in effort to collectively create programming that will be used in central Minnesota communities to educate residents on how to prevent bullying and how to stop present occurrences of the social pandemic.

“We’ve asked you here today to help us,” said John Heydt, IN member. “You all see bullying through different eyes.”

Fourteen people discussed ideas with IN members and developed a community-wide focus for maintaining a sustainable anti-bullying training program. Community conversations, events and training are planned activities. The IN received a $45,000 Otto Bremer Foundation grant to fund the project.

“The word bullying gets thrown around a lot these days,” said Shari Maloney, ATCC chief human resources officer and IN member.

Bullying is experienced by children, teens, adults and senior citizens at school, college, in the workplace and in daily life. Attacks can be physical, verbal, emotional, sexual or cyber in nature.

IN member Jennie Hevern said the elderly and those in poverty experience a high level of harassment.

“You get treated differently,” Hevern said. “We need to give everyone a fair chance, from the cradle to the grave.”

A study by the California Safe Schools Coalition revealed that teachers are less likely to intervene when harassment is sexual, gender or body-size focussed and are more apt to act when the bullying involves race, religion and disabilities.

Judy Backhaus said children are exhibiting bullying behavior as young as age 2 and 3. Backhaus works in human resources for Alexandria School District 206.

Seventy percent of people who were bullied in elementary or high school are also targeted in college. That trend can follow victims throughout their adult lives and infiltrate workplaces. Up to 50 percent of people have been bullied at work; 62 percent of perpetrators are men.

Workplace bullying effects range from absenteeism and low productivity to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“Bullying does present a health risk,” said Debra LeDoux, IN member. “A lot of people don’t know what they are doing is bullying.”

Someplace Safe advocate Susie Trexler said after an Echo Press article (When health affects wealth: Bullying in the workplace) was published on February 20 a man visited with her and revealed he had developed PTSD and was forced into early retirement as a result of bullying.

“Someone has to be the whistleblower,” Trexler said.

Once the IN’s anti-bullying program curriculum is complete, the organization intends on making it available to schools, businesses, churches and any other group that wishes to offer the training.

Founded in 2003, the IN changed its name in 2012 from the Diversity Resource Action Alliance to the Inclusion Network to become more encompassing and better serve the Alexandria area. The group strives to create a stronger community by promoting diversity, equality and justice of all people.

“We bring communities together to foster respect,” Maloney explained.


1 out of 4 teens are bullied

1 out of 5 kids admit to being a bully

9 out of 10 lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered students are harassed

8 percent of students will stay home from school to avoid being bullied

43 percent of students fear harassment in school bathrooms

55 percent of college students in clubs, teams and organizations experience hazing

58 percent of students have not told their parents they’ve been bullied

70 percent of students bullied in elementary or high school are also targeted in college

95 percent of students do not report hazing incidents

282,000 students are physically attacked in secondary schools each month

Statistics compiled by the Inclusion Network.

Alexandria Echo Press August 21, 2013


Otto Bremer Foundation Awards $45,000 to Inclusion Network

ECHO PRESS -7/24/2013

The Otto Bremer Foundation, majority owner of Bremer Bank, recently awarded $45,000 to the Inclusion Network and Alexandria Technical and Community College. The funds will be used to develop a curriculum and conduct community conversations, events and training on bullying in Alexandria. The grant will span two years. The Inclusion Network is a group of dedicated people with a common goal: to make Central Minnesota an inclusive and welcoming place for people of all backgrounds to live and work. Its goal is to strengthen the region through an appreciation and understanding of diversity and cultural differences. This project will allow the Inclusion Network to create learning opportunities, dialogues and experiences that support actions toward equality and justice to strengthen the community.

Minnesota's racial geography shifting

Star Tribune Article

Minnesota's outstate cities show striking contrasts, census finds.

Minnesota has some of the most extreme examples of racial and ethnic change -- and changelessness -- in the nation, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Thursday.

The area in and around Alexandria remains whiter than all but three of the nation's several hundred "micropolitan areas," a new Census Bureau invention meant to isolate small but regionally important population centers.


Keeping the Dream Alive: Mixed Blood Theatre Dr. King Production Perfect Prelude to Black History Month

Echo Press Article

Warren C. Bowles delivered a chilling performance as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Mixed Blood Theatre production, Dr. King’s Dream, at Alexandria Technical and Community College on Tuesday night.

A room full of pale faces stared at a lone black man. Not uncommon in the 1950s and not uncommon in Alexandria today. Over the course of one hour, that one man took the audience on a journey through Dr. King’s last moments on earth.



Diversity Resource Action Alliance Changes Name

Echo Press Article

In 2012, DRAA changed its name to the Inclusion Network (IN). It is the IN’s belief that Alexandria has an ethical, economic and legal responsibility to become a more inclusive community. The IN views the road to an inclusive community as a natural and healthy path of progress.



Alexandria man honored for trying to undo racism

Echo Press Article

Steve Pederson of Alexandria has been named the 2012 Facing Race ambassador for Greater Minnesota by the St. Paul Foundation’s Facing Race initiative.

As part of its ongoing effort to create a more equitable, just and open community, the foundation’s anti-racism initiative created the award to recognize people in the region who are committed to building a community which everyone feels safe, valued and respected.


Ambassador Award Website Profile

Success is hard to measure in this business. Things are better. Compared to the last 30 years that I’ve known Central Minnesota, we have made more progress in the last 5-10 years than in the past. It’s still a tough thing, though, and the more you learn, the more you learn you don’t know.

Steve Pederson

Steve Pederson is a lifelong central Minnesotan who lives and works on his farm, 20 miles southwest of Alexandria, across the street from where he has lived all but one of his 43 years.


Diversity Council Article (Rochester)

Steve Pederson has a mission: to make Central Minnesota a more welcoming and inclusive place to raise his children.  He is a long-time advocate for racial sensitivity and racial equity but these goals were heightened when he and his wife adopted their first child, an African American girl.  Now the proud parents of two children, their mission is ever more important.

“A few key life experiences molded Pederson’s racial sensitivity and have made him uniquely qualified to educate and transform his community. Pederson says he first witnessed racism while in elementary school. In his overwhelmingly white rural school, Pederson witnessed the mistreatment of a small group of students of color. Pederson knew these children and was alarmed to see them bullied and treated as the “other,” or “less than” because of the color of their skin" (2012 Facing Race Ambassador Award).