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The fastest-growing population group in Wisconsin has a new virtual home in the Chippewa Valley.
Hispanics can connect in west-central Wisconsin via the website http://www.elcentrocv.org created this spring by a class of University of Wisconsin-Stout students. The multilingual site was made for El Centro de Conexión de Chippewa Valley, a two-year-old organization based in Eau Claire whose goal is to bring together Hispanic residents and to help them develop a stronger connection to the region.
Wisconsin’s Hispanic population grew 74 percent in the last decade, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, and comprises 5.9 percent of state residents. In the Chippewa Valley, more than 3,300 Hispanics — or Spanish-speaking people from Latin America — are living in Chippewa, Eau Claire and Dunn counties.
“This website will add so much credibility to our mission,” said Corban Gehler, of Eau Claire, president, chairman of the board and co-founder of El Centro de Conexión. “I’m amazed at the possibilities we now have to create even more connections.”
The site was created by students majoring in professional communication and emerging media, led by Associate Professor Matt Livesey. They researched El Centro’s needs, designed the look of the site, wrote code and brought it all to life using a content management system.
Website users can click on 12 colorful topic modules, such as Events, Community Resources or Discussion Board, and choose their language with which to view the site. One of the features expected to be popular is the Country Connection module, which provides Google Earth maps, weather and news feeds for 20 countries.
“This is one of the incredible aspects of this site,” said Julie Keown-Bomar, family living educator for UW-Extension in Eau Claire County, an El Centro co-founder and board member. “For us this brings it all together from around the globe.”
Student Andrew Petrun, of Menomonie, was the project leader for the class. Students divided the many duties involved in developing the site. “We wanted the home page to be inviting and make it clear what was available. It took a lot of work but worked out very well,” Petrun said.
Some students participating in the project were taking the class online. “It’s a challenge to coordinate, but it reflects the way the global workplace functions,” Livesey said. “This project expanded students’ skills and allowed them to improve life in our region. It was an amazing process to watch.”
A second service-learning effort was part of the project. An art student who was not in the class, Emily Larson of Lakeville, Minn., created a new logo for El Centro. Her design, a “C” filled with colorful Latin-inspired textile patterns, was chosen by El Centro. Initially, 22 students designed prototype logos as part of John Corrigan’s Graphic Design II class.
Larson’s work, which includes various logo treatments, a color palette and identity aspects, was a 10-week project. “I wanted to focus on the connection and community, so I kept going back to the ‘C,’” Larson said.
The El Centro project brought together UW-Stout students from the School of Art and Design and the department of English and philosophy.
Keown-Bomar and Gehler are excited about the professional-quality logo and website, which they plan to publicize in the Chippewa Valley Hispanic and local community.
“You’ve helped the Chippewa Valley get prepared for the wave of the future,” Keown-Bomar told students as they presented the project to El Centro. “The Latino population is here, but we haven’t acknowledged they’re here. You’ve created this image that we can be neighbors.”
The idea for the project came through Alex Mazurek, an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer at UW-Stout who works with nonprofit groups in Dunn County. When he learned of El Centro’s needs for a new website and logo, he put the group in touch with Livesey and his students.
For more on UW-Stout’s professional communication and emerging media undergraduate program, click here.