Site hosted by Build your free website today!

Morris: All American City Finalist 2004

M...O...R...R...I...S....e-y...MORRIS! This was part of our chant in our recent presentation (see script of the great city of Morris I live, located in west-central Minnesota! A group of 14 proud citizens of Morris and I-Sal (my profile) presented our hometown to a panel of judges with the National Civic League with 29 other All American City Finalist:

* Stockton, CA
Stamford, CT
(baseball foam ball from Civic Fair)
Ocean Potion, anti-aging sun block SPF 30 from one of these Florida cities
Clearwater, FL
Deerfield Beach, FL
Lauderhill, FL
(Homeowners' Assoc. Mtg., Black History Month Challenge->HRC, Free Trees->PR/Arbor Dayetc..)
Palm Bay, FL
* Pembroke Pines, FL
Pompano Beach, FL
* Evansville, IN
Olathe, KS
St. Martinville, LA
(home of the falcon rice mill)
Grand Rapids, MI
Taylor, MI
* Montevideo, MN-(chosen for Holywood movie "Wedding Photos")
*movie to be filmed soon (10/11/04 KSAX News)
Red Wing, MN
Hattiesburg, MS
Farmville, NC
(Peanut Roaster, Inc.-Jalapeno Peanuts)
Clinton, NC
(gave a 1/2 ruler)
* Concord, NC
Sparks, NV
* Springfield, OH
Lakeview, OR
* Cottage Grove, OR
Fort Mill, SC
Orangeburg County, SC
* Hidalgo, TX
Cedar City, UT
* Spokane, WA
* Philippi, WV

What happened at the All American City Finalist competition?

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 9TH-Most of the (11) 15 member Morris Team arrives in Atlanta. They arrive around 6p (EDT) and they roam around the Marriot-downtown Atlanta.

THURSDAY, JUNE 10th-They get registered, which they get a bag of items that contains the schedule of events for this 4-day events and helpful resources to take back to our communities:

-Access Town Hall Software Suite, solving e-government initiatives
-Governing: The Magazine of States and Localities (June 2004 issue)
-Lighted Schools: Fulfilling the Promise of Community Education, from National Civic League's National Center for Community Ed & Alliance for National Renewal

Also, the bag contains some tourist information to get better familiarity of the area. Rest (4) of Team Morris arrives in the morning to practice their presentation (from 11a-1p).

David and Sal doing a cartwheel to relieve stress during presentation practice

Then they take a very short break before doing another rehearsal in the actual setting (from 1:50-2:10p).

Orientation: Most of the 30 cities represented are present for a welcoming ceremony. Team Morris is somewhat shocked about the loudness of the event, but later gets into it with their kazoos and chanting M..O..R..R..I..S! All city participants and team are required to sit down through a briefing from 3:30-5pm. The NCL organizers fields questions any team has on the process of this whole selection.

Welcome Reception @6:30-9p: Finger foods (different types of break, cheese, crackers, chips, etc..) are served as Team Morris waits in a long line to have a taste. After a small-big filling, we head to Hsu's Chinese Restaurant a block away for a cultural food experience in Atlanta. We saw pictures of celebrities that has been here: Yao Ming and others I forgot!

FRIDAY, JUNE 11th-Team Morris is a little nervous, but confident about presenting around 3:25 pm after Montevideo and before Red Wing-their Minnesota counterparts. We practice around 10a-11a and talked about possible questions after viewing several presentations this morning. Some watched more presentations to see what they are like.

Presentation (script): Team Morris shows up around 2:45p before the actual 3:25-3:45p presentation. To take off the tension, they do some attention-getting exercises from others around: "Unique New-York" (saying this repetitively) to exercise the mouth and jaws, "You shake your right hand in, you shake your right hand out", team massage, clapping hand exerices and pointing to team member by saying their name, etc...The presentation was at it's best as no one really made any obvious mistake. We went over the 10 minutes by 5-10 seconds, but nothing too drastic.

Some questions (10 minute session) they asked us after the 10 minute presentation was:

1. How has Prairie Renassiance developed after being started only 5 years ago?
-We (Phil, Sal, and Mike) shared from 3 different perspectives of the Prairie Renassiance
2. What will you'll be doing with the campus' diversity in impacting the community? -Annual Community Picnic builds the relationship between the community and new incoming UMM students
3. How did the partnership started between the unviersity and the community?
4. Could you give two examples of leaders that came out of the Prairie Renassiance Project as it's been only 5 years?
-Katie, who shared her vision and heart for the surrounding wetlands
5. Why were you suprised that they asked you (Mike-youth) about this skateboard project?
-(give thanks to Char Zinda of Morris Community Ed, who has gone "all out" to get the voices of the youth heard)
6. What makes Morris unique in your joint powers as a city with the county and state level?
7. How has your horticulture night-agriculture (e.g. limousine) influenced internationally (I can't remember the specific question)

The question and answer period went well, but I (Sal) personally felt I could've done better with my answer (Question #4)...

"As a Filipino American born and raised in St. Paul, I went to school at Morris and encountered questions like, what are you? I decided to stay after graduating from UMM in 1999. With the 15% minority rate at UMM, we are able to use them to teach this predominately white community." (something like this)

If I could answer their question (#4) again, I would've answered this.
*Tip: Have each team member do a written report of their particular project they are representing on:

"Hi, my name is Sal, who is representing the small minority community of this predominately white, but diverse (see Morris Tribute) in itself community. I mentioned in the presentation that "As a UMM Graduate, Prairie Renassaince (project) drew me deeper into the community". It gave me an opportunity to not only voice my personal view points, but the many other minorities-mainly in the campus community. The committee came up with the focus on exposing UMM's diverse ethnic student more to the community-the need of face to face social interaction. I met with challenges (e.g.racism) as many other minority students that come as far as UMM's focus recruitment cities of: Chicago, El Paso, California, and as close as the Twin Cities. Many of these cities, these student that come here were part of the majority ethnic group. When they come to UMM-Morris, they experience a cultural shock (racism or unexpected unintentional-racist questions like, where are you from? what are you?). Instead of getting mad, offended, or complaining; I encourage minority students to share about their ethnic culture with the activities Prairie Renassaince gives (e.g. Ethnic Night at the newly started Common Cup) and other UMM cross-cultural events: World Touch Cultural Heritage Week, Ambassadors Cultural Exchange Program, Pow Wow, etc..that is mentioned in our educate this predominately Norwegian, German, Scandinavian, In return, we learn from them too, like I've now tasted lutefisk, lefse, and learned how to talk more Minnesota-"Yah You betcha"! Not only our city is progessing, but the citizens itself is progressing as individuals in this city, nation, and this planet we all live in as we all grow through learning from one another-an opportunity in this small rural college community."

If I could've gone further (total 10 minute time limit for the team), I would've desribed how Prairie Renaissance was able to get a cultural center within 4 years ONLY from it's original planning stages when I was given an opportunity to "chair a committee dedicated to cultural development"-script. It has board members representing different facets of cultures, from art to music to environment, that meets the first Mondays of each month. Since 1995, leaders has been raised from this. Even though they are not as active with Prairie Renassaince now, they are active in other areas focussing on their interests in various parts of the community. For me, I stepped out of the cultural committee position to focus on serving as a cross cultural resource for my local church and campus ministries (e.g. international students). I wanted to increase the "exposure" of the diverse ethnic student population of the university with the predominately "white" rural Morris community. This is a life learning opportunity for each of us (two way street for both majority and minority population) in this rapid increasing multicultural world, which is necessary as a citizen of America and globe.

Here are some remarks that the judges gave us after our presentation during the question and answer period:

"Whatever is in your city's water, I gotta have it"-Hugh, the judge (after our kazooing, yelling, and pumped-up presentation)

Here are other remarks from others that watched us:

"The presentation made you look like you weren't from the Midwest (not passive, reserved, etc...)"
"Good job!"

NOTE: Presentation and Questions-Answer Period will be on Morris Channel 6 Mon, Wed, and Fri @11a

*please e-mail your feedback on this at

Civic Fair: We passed out Morris souveniers (colorful well-informative news (Tuesday, June 8th edition that featured the 15 team members' profile) from the Morris Sun Tribune to the Walmart "like" crowd that came in rushing when the doors opened at 6:30p. A couple of our "older team members" had an unexpected opportunity to do some dancing (see some pictures to be put on it is...

Ed dances the night out!

Dan dances the night away next!

which was a very interesting cultural experience for them! It was getting slow around 9pm, which we started to pack-up some "stuff" left over from our booth. We decided to pass-out the UMM Buttons around the fair. Shelly used her UMM Admissions' skills/experience to share about the "3rd Best Public Liberal Arts College" with a mom and sister from Florida (they ended up speaking to me again the next day, which I gave them my personal website of my UMM experience).
*Note: We weren't able to play our local music (Children 18:3) as we planned to. There was a lot of music going on already, which visitor to our booth would've not been able to hear it.

SATURDAY, JUNE 12th-Team Morris relaxes beginning part of the day to get their mind of the Awards-Reception. They tour Atlanta: Majority of the group visits the Coca-Cola Museum, while some others went to the CNN Center and stayed at the hotel...more

Team Morris somewhat realizes (smaller chance of another Minnesota city and a smaller town) that they didn't make it to the 10 finalist when Montevideo was announced (4 of 10), which they give their neighbors a congratulations. We had a chance to come up on stage in front of everybody, which the "Honorable" Mayor Carol Wilcox spoke about coming back next year and then congratulating Montevideo up front.

Other finalist cities that didn't make it to the final ten shared various encouraging-patriotic closings. Many commonaly shared about the achievements of former U.S. President, Ronald Regan, who sadly past away last week (been on the media all week!). I remember one city shared how Regan shared that "America is like a city on a hill to the world" (not the exact words). Another common theme was thanking NCL and judges for their time to make this all possible. Also, the mission of NCL to increase (especially the difficult times our nation is facing) the democracy pride of our nation, which it starts with communities like us to spread it to our neighboring communities to better our nation.

....more on Atlanta trip (including "fun" pictures throughout the city)

Dedication Moment of Silence to:

Ronald Regan
(February 6, 1911-June 5th of 2004)

Also, as citizens making our local communities a better place to live, we should be more motivated to keep doing this for the next generation. Also, to not forget our military personals, missionaries, aid workers, business persons, etc.. inland and overseas who are making a difference in a different way. Whatever your politicial beliefs are in our current situation as a nation, please not forget them and pray for them as a sign of support as we live in our own lives in this nation.

What did I learn from all this?

Despite not winning the All American City "Ten Finalist of Thirty", we are still one of the 30 finalist in 2004. As a finalist, we still need to live up to this recognition as a city. How? We need to keep progressing (keep our promises mentioned in our script) as a city as we mentioned in our presentation. I told several members of the team after the awards reception last night that I'll do my best to do my part-in "making a difference" in the area of the cultural diversity area and other areas overall that I'm involved in.

After reading a magazine the NCL gave us while I was on the plane from Atlanta to the Twin Cities this afternoon, I notice a criteria that NCL seems to really focus on; it is citizenship participation or involvement (see government)! When I go back to Morris, I would like to increase city involvement of it's residents. There is this famous quote by John F. Kennedy, "Don't ask what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country" [Don't ask what the city of Morris can do for you, but ask yourself as citizens of Morris on what you can do for your city!]. We love to complain as American citizens; maybe it's because of our mainstream "mostly negative" media or our self-centeredness living an individualistic society? I don't know, but we need to start being contented on what've been blessed in this nation, state, and city especially! As a citizen of Morris for 5+ years (since 99' when I graduated from UMM) and going...I've heard people/students complain about "nothing to do" or "there isn't this". Well, look at other places and compare where you've been before? Instead of focussing on the negative of each city, focus on the positive of the city! For me, I look at the opportunities to get to know individuals in Morris by name! That was one of the reasons for going to UMM (didn't expect to stay this long and live here this long!), I wanted be known by my name and not number (like the 15-20,000+ students of the Twin Cities Campus of the Big-U).

"Making it in the world today, takes everything you got. Taking away of all your worries will sure help a lot. Wouldn't you like to get away? Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name?...-Cheers (one of my favorite tv sitcoms in the 80's-see rest of theme song lyrics)

In this increasingly fast paced (McDonalidization) life of increase technology to make our lifestyle "better"?-we forget our humanity of personal relationship of talking to each other in person. In fact, I got this idea with the help of Jon-James (the Barnes Soda Fountain worker at the Coca-Cola Museum-Atlanta Trip 04'-who showed me his designs of national theme parks; from California), when he shared how the "good old days" was a time where "people actually talk to each other" (not with e-mail, on-line chat, phone/cell phones, etc..) face-to-face! People were not in a rush like we are now and they would sit in these malt-shops sipping on Coke; taking their time! Well, I get reminded of this when I see that sign along the way back to Morris from the Twin Cities on Highway 28; "Stop & Smell the Roses" ( see rest)

A UMM Commencement Speaker from 2004' shared about "Living the Presence" by using a present (wrapped) as a 3D model during her eye opening speech. Yes, we do need to live day by day and savor the moment in our daily lives. You never know when that "special someone" in your life may get sick (as Morris Team experienced with one of its' members' family), injured, get into an accident, or be gone-death.

Part of the AAC Team takes a last group pictures during a Welcome Back Appreciation Parade

Overall, one of the best results from this trip was getting to know the "diverse" members (14 of them and others during the process) of the Morris community. We did this "ice breaker" called "About Me", which we shared some personal background information to get to know each other more as a "team". Here is mine! I learned some life applicable skills (e.g. "I'll hold you up" line that was reccomended by Dave Johnson, theatre "guy", when he was critiquing our presentation before the Atlanta trip) to take on life.

Morris has been a great place of refuge for me and many others to escape "the Big city life". However, I've learned that you'll find almost the same problems, issues, and challenges in a big city here too-just in different scale-some extreme, some low! It can get overwhelming on trying to solve every problem in the world. What one can do is ask your Creator-"what did you make me for?" (Reccomended Book: Purpose Driven Life)

This is Progress!-Keep going!

Below are some goals I would like to work on with others in this community after this trip, which I'm willing to fine-tune:

Cultural Diversity

As mentioned in my Morris Tribute Page, the diversity here can teach many others. Yes, we don't have that BIG population, like the major metropolitan areas! We do have the closeness of people that we can learn from one another. In this, we can grow as individuals and citizens of this planet we all live in. I've been very interested in meeting folks from all over the world. Yes, I can go to some BIG metropolitan area to do this, but that'll take a long time to meet each single individual personally. Here in small town Morris, one can learn from people in various parts of the world without traveling to their country. They are coming here-see international students! We may not get every nation from all over the world, but one can get familiar with the particular nations they represent. In my 10+ years in Morris alone, I've met over 30+ ethnic groups (see UMMAlpha) and growing! My heart as a resident of Morris is to see more ethnic minority students "feel home" (script)!

List of Diversity Goals:
*please contact me ( on how YOU can contribute to making these goals happen!

?have Black Entertainment Television as part of the local regular cable channels; has been a big frequent request from African American students at UMM since I can remember
=>(Larry-ORL: Sent : Monday, July 19, 2004 5:34 PM) "As for the cable we provide, we have been with HomeTown for the last year. MediaCom and HomeTown do not have BET on their line up. In order to get BET we would have to have enough regional support to get all customers they serve to agree to provide subscriber support to pay extra to have it added to their line up. UMM alone would not be enough income for either company to add BET.
We have over the last year looked at satellite being brought into the main lounge areas (not all the hall) to allow for a reason to gather residents in the center of the building (BET, NFL package, etc.). It is still a concept at this point. The main thing we NEED to do is offer things on campus that students may not get off campus."

-more cultural sensitivity workshops ran by both HRC (Human Rights Commission), MRC (Minority Resource Center), and others that are equipped to do so
-educated college students, especially incoming students about the Gateway Program, Native American Indian Tuition Waiver, and other cross cultural sensitive issues
-address more cultural sensitivity issues students or new residents from minority ethnic backgrounds face, so they can feel more welcome in this community
-have someone fill the opening position in the board of the Prairie Renassaince Cultural Center; have someone representing ethnic cultural issues/events to increase cross cultural education
-have more ethnic products available in local stores-hair products: pink oil; food prodcuts: real oyster sauce, Asian food products, real bean sprouts
-better food restaurant options-cuisine
*ethnic night at Common Cup can be a good place to advocate this and start a committee on working on this
-communicate with students where to turn to on racism experiences. For example, the Human Right Commission told me prior to my trip to Atlanta that they they want to hear about any racism experiences so they can file a report (10 was recorded last year) and know where to target on their educational programs to prevent or decrease any racist activities. -help decrease the "fear of the unknown" between campus and community:

  • "regular campus community connection": have a college student share at a community venue (e.g. Common Cup, Morris Senior Center, Prairie Renassaince Cultural Center, etc...) in a regular (weekly or monthly) schedule throughout the year. While have a community member share at the campus (e.g. Student Center-TMC) in a regular schedule during the school year. It's like the Morris Sun Tribune's "Meet the Community Member Profile" (something like this) each week. Each person sharing can share their background (e.g. ethnic, hobbies/interest), experiences living in/outside of Morris, and the common ground living here ("great things of living here?"). After their share, they can open to any questions.

    -get more UMM students, youth, or underepresented sectors of the community participate more in these community programs to get their voice heard
    -more networking of our different community representatives (e.g. churches, public sector, government, etc...) to better our community-our one commonality goal in making a difference: community needs, ride board (e.g list of potential riders/drivers, like the UMM Student Center's), fundraisers, events, and others listed in a community bulletin
    -keep progressing on these programs or projects to be ready for the All American City competition in the future!

    After living in Morris, I've learned to see more than the color of white people! I've seen the various ethnicities they represent: German, Norwegian, Finnish, Irish, Italian, etc... Yah, they do make-up the majority race in these parts of West Central Minnesota, but they too have their own unique individual cultures. Before working at the group home (Ravenwood Home-Prairie Community Services I currently work at for the first time in 1999, I never knew how to cook hotdishes-now I do! I'm also starting to talk more like the people here...

    "Yah, you bethcha!"
    ("friendly" Minnesota saying

    I personally would like to see more cross cultural learning from the people that live in Morris. We need to take advantage of our city's biggest assets-the people-that live here! Where can you find one place that you can get this experience!

    CommUNITY Networking

    I was chatting with several team members on the transit ride from downtown Atlanta to the aiport-day after the Awards Recognition/Reception; I was very concerned, angered, and shocked of a ESL issue 2 1/2 years ago. I would like to better network amongst one another on issues like these to prevent something similar to this happening again. It would be nice to know the chain of command on who to contact when different issues arise in our community. Like many places, communication is very important (e.g. 9-11)!

    Morris Community Needs Bulletin

    I was reading one of the interviews on what are the benefits if we did win the All American City Award: the economic growth opportunities, able to network with other cities, being on the map, etc.. Yes, they are benefits, but there are also some hidden side effects too. Several community members told me that they like the smallness and are afraid of our community getting too big! I told them that one of the reasons for winning the "finalist" award was one of our programs called "Prairie Renassaince". This would've not happened without the help of an outside resource called "The Blandin Foundation" Other questions to ask as a community:

    What makes Morris unique?
    -two stop lights
    -diversity within this small community
    -"the people are our assets"

    What makes one live here?
    -safety for our kids compared to the BIG city
    -low crime
    -"good place to raise a family"

    What are the challenges living here?
    -racism as an ethnic minority
    -"nothing to do as a youth"

    What'll take to be an All American City?

    Youth's Voice to be Heard More!

    I would like to see more partnerships with leaders amongst the youth to encourage them in their vision and passion. Mike and Kellie are just prime examples of what youth can do-the success of the skateboard park. Keep up with the mentoring opporunities (e.g. TREC) we already have developed!

    "What's next for our kids? Ask us what's next for our lives together!!
    -from script

    Please feel free to contact me ( or any of the 14 other Morris Team members (list) that went to Atlanta from June 9th-13th of 2004 of any suggestions of what we could've done better, possible next year or so, comments/complaints on the content of this page, or advice on how you and us can contribute to making Morris a better All American City finalist as they progress as a joint community!

    Post-All American City 2004 Event

    Yesterday-Tuesday, Sept 21st of 2004, Morris had a post-all american city finalist 2004 mtg. at the Morris Public Library. Some of the 15 member team that participated in the event came and new interested members of the community came too. We discussed about whether or not to get involve in 2005. The BIG question is what has been the rewards of past AAC finalist? I decided to contact all the cities (kept mass e-mail list that was sent by a NCL staff prior to Atlanta) and this is what I got:

    Date: Tue, 21 Sep 2004 15:55:07 -0400
    From: "Vickie
    To: Subject: Re: Morris, MN-AAC Finalist Study?

    I think one of the first things that Concord, North Carolina has seen as a result of becoming an All America City is a showing of great pride by the citizens of our city. We had a celebration on July 10th commemorating our award. The attendance downtown was the largest that's ever been seen for any event. The excitement of the crowd was overwhelming. I still hear people bragging about Concord being an All America City. We're now starting to incorporate our AAC status in economic development proposals and we plan to include it in our bond rating application.

    I think our winning this designation has brought several of our very wonderful volunteer programs into the spotlight, which has helped them. Many of our citizens wouldn't know some of these programs exist if it hadn't been for the publicity that they've received through our AAC status.

    It's still a little early to really know what benefits we're going to enjoy from receiving our AAC designation, but so far it's been great. I LOVE the bragging rights we have.

    Vickie Weant
    City of Concord
    North Carolina

    Subject: RE: Morris, MN-AAC Finalist Study?
    Date: Tue, 21 Sep 2004 15:39:59 -0500
    From: Kuhlmann
    To: "GoodNews Morris"

    I am just doing a survey with all the folks who participated in the 2004 process and can send you the result sin a week or so.

    Kay Kuhlmann

    Council Administrator
    City of Red Wing

    From: "Sarah OLATHEKS.ORG
    To: "'GoodNews Morris'"
    Subject: RE: Morris, MN-AAC Finalist Study?
    Date: Wed, 22 Sep 2004 10:22:55 -0500

    Hello from Olathe. We have been having similar discussions, debates, etc. on our end. Ultimately what was determined was that there was no real tangible benefit except for the nationwide exposure that we all received. Olathe is part of the Kansas City Metropolitan area and has struggled over the last couple of years with setting ourselves apart or establishing our "brand". Bottom line, we are of the feeling that as a AAC finalist we have begun to establish ourselves as a national "player" gaining the much needed exposure that is required if we want to be known or recognized outside the parameters of KC metro area.

    That being said, Olathe does plan to participate in the future.

    From: "B.C."
    To: "GoodNews Morris"
    Subject: Re: Morris, MN-AAC Finalist Study?
    Date: Fri, 24 Sep 2004 13:39:31 -0500

    I would like to have that information as well. Sounds like that would be a good way to decide if it is worth going through the efforts again.
    Brenda Comeaux Trahan
    Acadian Memorial / St. Martinville, LA

    Return to GoodNews UMM: Motown Homepage

    Thank you for visiting my page at Angelfire. Please come back and visit again!