Westerville's leaders are inviting the community to an open dialogue about diversity within the city.
Westerville's two Rotary clubs have worked with city officials, the Westerville City School District, Otterbein University, the Interfaith Association of Central Ohio and organizers of the high school's Challenge Day to create the first Westerville Community Culture Day.
The event is planned from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 23 at Heritage Middle School, 390 N. Spring Road.
There will be a free continental breakfast followed by an opening panel comprising a member of the Somali community, a member of the LGBT community and the Latino communities.
The panelists will discuss why they chose to live in Westerville and the positives and challenges of being minority members of the community. A question-and-answer session will follow.
That segment will be followed by Westerville high school students who have participated in Challenging Day discussing the anti-bullying program and how it has impacted them.
A second panel comprising a member of the Napalese community, a member of the African-American community and a local clergyman who has traveled to developing nations around the world will discuss diversity in the city.
There will be open time, during which audience members will be encouraged to talk about diversity and culture within the city.
Westerville elementary school students will close the program, and lunch with be provided by members of the local Somali and Turkish communities.
The goal of the event is to get a productive dialogue about diversity and different cultures started in the community, said Westerville Police Chief Joe Morbitzer, who helped organize the event.
"We'll be able to talk to people who are from different cultures, who are from different backgrounds," Morbitzer said. "The whole idea here is for us to understand and appreciate each other better."
Too often, people form opinions on those who are different based on misconceptions, Morbitzer said.
By getting people of all backgrounds talking about their views and the community, the community will be able to move forward and improve, Morbitzer said.
"We're all working toward a common goal here of making our community the best it can be," he said.
"It's an exciting opportunity for us as a community for all of us to really come together to move toward a common goal.
"We want to identify some of the issues in the community and the strengths of the community to see what we could do better," Morbitzer said.
Organizers hope to make Westerville Community Culture Day a yearly event, Morbitzer said.
"What we're looking at is making this an annual event and not just a one-time event and grow as we go," he said.
More information about the event can be found on the event's Facebook page.