Local News

County now majority-minority population

Finney County has added its name to a growing list of counties nationwide where minorities outnumber the majority — non-Hispanic whites —

Date: 12/31/1969

Posted by Kansas Appleseed on 5/21/2009

Published 5/20/2009 in Local News By SHAJIA AHMAD sahmad@gctelegram.com  And the news is making national cable television. A crew from CNN that rolled into town earlier this week is leaving today, after getting a glimpse of Garden City's diversity in a county where 50 percent — or 20,505 of 40,998 individuals — identify themselves as minorities, according to numbers released by the U.S. Census Bureau. "Some of the folks (from CNN) were surprised at all our little faces," said Penny Cruz, an ESL instructor at Alta Brown Elementary School who was interviewed by the television crew about the young English-language learners that she has been working with for two years. "People in this part of the state are familiar with our diversity, but even folks from eastern Kansas are often surprised." The U.S. Census Bureau announced last week that Finney County is one of five counties nationwide to have become minority-majority counties in 2008. The Bureau defines the category, which already represents about 10 percent of counties nationwide, as one where more than half of residents identify themselves as being of a group other than single-race, non-Hispanic whites. At Alta Brown, where 55 percent of students are English-language learners according to the latest enrollment figures from USD 457, Cruz said she teaches a wide range of youngsters, including Southeast Asian, Hispanic and Burmese students. Most of the southeast Asian and Hispanic ELL students are versed in "playground English," said Cruz, meaning they have enough English to get by and communicate with teachers, she said. Her young Burmese students, however, don't speak as much English; most all are the sons and daughters of recent refugees. Of a student body of 411 students, 70 percent identify as Hispanic at Alta Brown, and the elementary school's demographic makeup is similar to many other USD 457 schools: At Victor Ornelas Elementary School, 84 percent of students are English-language learners and 87 percent of the 436 enrolled students are Hispanic. At Buffalo Jones Elementary School, 92 percent of 359 students are Hispanic and 88 percent are English-language learners. Five other counties along with Finney became majority-minority counties in 2008: Stanislaus, Calif.; Orange County, Fla.; Warren, Miss.; Edwards, Texas; and Schleicher, Texas. Nearly 10 percent of the nation's 3,142 counties were majority-minority as of 2008, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The CNN story will air on its cable news channel between 5 and 8 a.m. Thursday. The video also will be available on cnn.com sometime Thursday, according to Sara Weisfeldt, a producer. Learn more about immigration issues on Shajia Ahmad's Immigration Matters blog at SWKTalk.com.