By Wynona James
Special Emphasis Program manager
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — The 21st Space Wing is known for its commitment to educate and maintain diverse work centers by embracing cultural awareness through its special emphasis program. During the year, educational programs and activities are scheduled which focus on diversity, equitable hiring practices, and career advancement. This fall was no different, with activities from September to November showcasing Hispanic Heritage, People with Disabilities and National Native American Heritage Month.
Based on congressional mandates, Hispanic Heritage month runs annually from Sept. 1 to Oct. 15, commemorating the history and contribution Hispanics have made to the United States. As such, each year Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on Sept. 15. It was enacted into law on Aug. 17, 1988, on the approval of Public Law 100-402. Sept. 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on Sept. 16 and Sept. 18, respectively. Also, Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, which is Oct. 12, falls within this 30 day period.
This year, the 21st Equal Opportunity Office hosted a small group discussion and educational presentation which focused on the historical contributions Hispanics have made to the United States. Bob Vasquez, course director at the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Center for Character Development, and adjunct professor at the University of Colorado — Colorado Springs, was the guest presenter who shared his personal experiences dealing with equality. He focused on everyone being responsible for accountability and respect. The presentation was informative and thought-provoking with a number of attendees present from the Air Force and other federal agencies within the region.
October is also designated as the National Disability Employment Awareness Month. As such, the federal government recognizes the indispensable contributions people with disabilities make in our economy and recommit to building a country where each of us can realize the full extent of our dreams. Because America’s workforce should reflect the diversity of its people, including people with disabilities, the federal government remains a model employer; ensuring agencies will increase recruitment, hiring and retention of people with disabilities.
In 2012, the Office of Personnel Management issued a progress report, revealing that the government is moving toward meeting a goal of hiring an additional 100,000 people with disabilities into the federal workforce over five years. Today, more people with disabilities work for the federal government than at any time in the past 20 years, and the government is striving to make it easier to get and keep those jobs by improving compliance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.
Two events were recently held at Peterson AFB which focused on employees with disabilities. Oct. 29, the Special Observance Committee and employees from the 21st Force Support Squadron presented a four-hour program on disability awareness. Speakers from the Office of Personnel Management and Colorado Department of Human Services Vocational Rehabilitation — along with two panels of employees with disabilities shared their experiences of being disabled in the workplace. Approximately 50 people, managers and employees attended the program and participated in an interactive session which provided employees with valuable information on disability awareness, Schedule A Hiring for Veterans, workplace etiquette, and dispelling stereotypes and misleading perceptions of the disabled.
On Oct. 31, the employees at the Envision Xpress Store here hosted a hot dog burn to also commemorate the contributions the disabled make to the federal government.
November is also the Department of Defense governed month to celebrate contributions of the Native American to America. Colorado has six tribal nations, Apache, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Pueblo, Shoshone and Ute, within its borders and three additional tribes, Comanche, Kiowa, and Navajo, with territories extending into Colorado.
The Native American culture is rich in traditions seeped with religious aspects. Their religion is centered on the concept that the supernatural world is manifested in the physical world. Like many coming of age ceremonies across cultures, the Native American culture embraces rich lessons associated with hard work, endurance, and spiritual heritage and helps bring the community together.
Upcoming events include a Native American Heritage Month program from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Nov. 29 in the Building 350 atrium. The event includes a display of Native American resources and artifacts, along with a Cherokee dance exhibition by Senior Airman Kevin Cheek, Air Force Office of Special Investigations. For information, contact Wynona James at 556-7691 or Staff Sgt. Rooshell McCullough at 556-7657.