South Dakota is not known for diversity; the latest census says that 4 out of 5 people in the state are white. But those numbers are beginning to change, and in some communities it's happening a lot faster than in others.
Sioux Falls, Yankton and Vermillion are all among South Dakota's most diverse cities. So is Box Elder- it's near the top, thanks to the diversity at Ellsworth Air Force Base.
Huron is number one.
To give you an idea just how much Huron has changed, Huron School District Superintendent Terry Nebelsick, who moved to town back in 1994, says at that time, the town was 95% white. Today he says it is 52% white, with people from at least nine different countries. Nebelsick says the Hispanic and Asian communities both make up more than 20% of the population.
But, of course, numbers only tell part of the story. How did Huron become the melting pot of South Dakota? To answer this, we need to look a few years back.
"I don't feel Huron would be able to grow the way they've grown without this diversity," said Smoky Heuston, director of human resources at Dakota Provisions, a meat processing plant in Huron.
"Huron looks like the rest of the world looks," Nebelsick said.
Heuston says Huron has ethnically changed in response to economic needs.
"I think the businesses in Huron, to meet the needs of the workforces, have had to go outside Huron and get people from other areas," Heuston said.
"Over the course of the last 11 years, we have transformed into a multi-ethnic community with people from all races that are very active in the community," Nebelsick said.
"Of the diversity, Huron's been changing for about 10 years," Heuston said.
Dan Santella: What do you think people need to know about that?
"I think they need to know that it's a good thing," Heuston said. "When their children go out for a post-secondary education, they'll already be ready to see what they see at college, and that's what you're going to see when you go to college."
One family who exemplifies the changing ethnic dynamic of Huron is María Rodríguez's family who moved here in November. KELOLAND News asked what it was like to live in Puerto Rico, experience the recent hurricanes that tormented the island, and then to be here in KELOLAND, so far away.
"It was very tough for me, because I saw how things can change from one minute to another, very quick," Rodríguez said.
In tonight's Eye on KELOLAND at Ten, you'll meet Rodríguez and her husband José Escribano. Their family's story, displaced by the wrath of hurricanes from their home in Puerto Rico and eventually resettled here in KELOLAND, highlights the larger trend of increased diversity in Huron.
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