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A place for all: The Nest to promote inclusivity at CLC

The Nest is the new multicultural center on the Central Lakes College Brainerd campus, designed as an inclusive space for all.

The windows looking into the Nest, a Multicultural Center at CLC
With welcoming words of peace and joy from cultures around the world on their windows, the Nest, a Multicultural Center at CLC opened on Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022.
Tim Speier / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — Welcome, namaste, boozhoo. Family, gesin, familie. Together, juntos, ensemble.

Inviting words painted in French, German, Afrikaans, Spanish, Hindi, Ojibwe and English greet visitors to the new multicultural center at Central Lakes College.

The Nest, as the space is called, was in the works for more than a decade and is now ready for students.

“We’ve always known we needed a center like this to live up to our commitment in our heart to build futures,” said CLC President Hara Charlier, during the center’s grand opening ceremony Wednesday, Jan. 12. “... We needed to elevate our commitment to diversity, to equity, to social justice, to anti-racism. We knew that. We needed this to be a place where every single student belongs and to be truly inclusive.”

And that’s just what the Nest is meant to be.

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The name came from recommendations after the idea was put out to the CLC community.

“We just really liked it because obviously we’re the Raiders, so the Nest kind of made sense,” said Student Life Director Erich Heppner. “And if you think about a nest being an inclusive space, safe space for folks, that seemed to make sense to us.”

A large mural painted by CLC alumna Kira Moses spans the length of one wall in the center, featuring portraits of prominent diverse figures from around the area and around the globe, including Chief Hole-in-the-Day, Winona LaDuke, Jim Clark, Martin Luther King Jr., Angela Davis, John Lewis, Malala Yousafzai, Megan Rapinoe, Marsha P. Johnson, George Takei and Cesar Chavez. The black and white faces of the figures symbolize unity, Moses said, while the bright background colors of red, orange, green, blue and purple stand out in stark contrast.

We needed this to be a place where every single student belongs and to be truly inclusive.
CLC President Hara Charlier

A committee of students came together to choose the people featured and the quotes printed next to them.

“I only represent a small part of the community, of course, and the whole point of this is to have a place for everybody, so we really made sure to ask everybody,” Moses said.

An array of tables and chairs invite students to sit, chat, work or just hangout. One of the more unique features of the Nest is the corner set up with a barber chair and haircutting tools. That’s where CLC graduate and professional barber Keywon Jackson-Rossina plans to set up shop and offer haircuts for students. His services are fitting a need of some of CLC’s Black students, who have expressed frustration at not being able to find salons in the area to work with their unique hair.

Jackson-Rossina had that problem when he was at CLC and turned to cutting his own hair, which resulted in a pretty patchy job at first.

“Everybody’s really thankful that we’ve finally got this opportunity presented to us,” he said. “So now it’s just my turn to make sure it stays on the train and keeps rolling.”

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Beyond haircuts and paintings, the Nest is a place for all students to feel like they belong. That’s especially important for athletes, CLC graduate Vincent Reed said during the ceremony Wednesday.

“We bring students from all over the country here to play sports. We need to provide something for them. They need to feel included in this community,” he said. “... There’s a gap that needs to be closed in this community as far as equity, diversity and inclusion.”

While most students feel comfortable at CLC, Reed said, stepping off campus into the community at large is another story. But the Nest is the place for them — for everyone.

“Sometimes the right thing to do isn’t necessarily an easy thing to do, but it’s the right thing to do, and it needs to be done,” Reed said, challenging everyone to make a difference in their community however they can.

“Just because it doesn’t affect you doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist,” he said.

And by being a space that’s welcoming to all, the Nest can help those from different backgrounds get to know each other better, an important point made by Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Elder Joe Nayquonabe.

“If we don’t know each other, there’s a lot of suspicions, a lot of fears, a lot of unknowns, so you’ve got to get to know one another,” Nayquonabe said.

The Nest is on the second floor of the Brainerd CLC campus.

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THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa .

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