Betsy Cohen was always involved in the community and international interests. While working at Nestlé Purina, she was associated with a coalition that worked with people overseas, allowing her to develop a good sense of how to make things better for immigrants in St. Louis.
When the St. Louis Mosaic Project launched in 2012, Cohen was immediately intrigued. The initiative was looking for a director, and Cohen came on board in 2013. “The St. Louis Mosaic Project says we’re all part of a mosaic, regardless of our race,” she says. “You keep your own individual identity, but are part of something bigger.”
The St. Louis Mosaic Project is a response to an economic impact report that outlined St. Louis to be lagging in immigrant growth and the economic benefits of increasing its foreign-born population. It’s managed by the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, World Trade Center St. Louis and a 22-member committee. The Project targets the immigrant community at many levels, including the civic level, the education level, and all levels of business.
After a long corporate career, Cohen found herself able to really devote her time and talent to making the region better. “Everyone has an immigrant story,” she says. “It’s important to remind American that we all have an immigrant story, and that’s how our country was built.”
Cohen cites The Woman’s Exchange as an example of helping people who help themselves. “Their mission is to help train women who are starting over,” she says. “These people have started a pathway to make life better for themselves and their children. This country offers those opportunities to make a new, better start.”
Through the Mosaic Project, Cohen says, lives are being positively influenced daily. “I meet great people, both native-born and foreign-born,” she notes. “People are always asking me what they can do to help – that’s so rewarding.”
The St. Louis region will see a population shift in coming years, Cohen explains. “We’re going to have more people of Latino and Asian background in the community, particularly in West County,” she says. “Our African-American and Caucasian populations are older, but the Latino and Asian populations are younger and growing. This is something we should be positive about because we want to be a growing region.”
The goal of the St. Louis Mosaic Project is to be the fastest-growing U.S. metropolitan area for immigration by 2020. It won’t be an easy one, with St. Louis ranking 19th out of the 20 largest metro areas in the country, with 4.6 percent of the population comprised of immigrants, according to U.S. Census data collected in 2011.
However, Cohen says the organization is on track to meet this goal, and just need to keep spreading the word about the Project and its programs.
Living in a more diversified community is good for all involved, according to Cohen. “We should embrace that we can be bigger and better. This is the future for our children and grandchildren.
This story was originally published at laduenews.com. Read it on LN’s website here.