Fort Myers diversity committee makes sure all voices are heard

Fort Myers is a booming community with houses, condos and apartment buildings popping up nearly everywhere a person looks. As more people move here, there is a big push to make sure we all get a say in its future.

Dr. Peter Ndiang’ui is excited to be a part of Fort Myers’ new diversity and inclusion committee.

“That was one of the greatest things the mayor asked me and I think it was so needed,” Ndiang’ui said. “We have to have a forum to get together.”

Randall P. Henderson Jr., the mayor of Fort Myers, announced the new group. He said it would work to examine city policies, events, hiring and more. It has the goal of making sure all people in the area feel included.

Henderson told WINK News the committee of 18 includes a variety of people with diverse professions and interests. The mayor said members would identify ways to enhance integration in Fort Myers as it is time they are devoting to the cause.

“This committee doesn’t get paid money to do this,” Henderson said. “They do it from the goodness of their heart.”

It is all about bringing people passionate about making sure everyone’s voice is being heard.

“We can heal this city,” Ndiang’ui said. “We may not be able to solve all the problems, but at least we start trying.”

From young minds come bright ideas

“Growing up in the area I always went to predominately white institutions,” Countryman said. “Now, I have friends that are from all over the place we all have completely different backgrounds.”

A diverse group of people proves conversations over coffee can change the world.

“I feel like we are on a mission to something great that we can heal this city,” Ndiang’ui said.

Hailey Countryman. (Credit: WINK News)
Hailey Countryman. (Credit: WINK News)

Ndiang’ui, a Florida Gulf Coast University professor, said student Countryman inspired an action that will change Fort Myers for the better. She is a person he has learned from. It all started when Henderson came into his diversity class and left with a new idea.

“I met Hailey who gave me the new idea of, ‘hey maybe we could start a diversity advisory committee, Mr. Mayor,'” Henderson said.

“I think that’s what really sparked the conversation about a council,” Countryman said, “and creating something that was more inclusive and got the opinions of other people heard.”

From then on, the idea of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee was born.

The Sanibel Captiva Community Bank became the first Southwest Florida business on board Countryman’s cause. It donated $25,000 to the College of Education where she studies at FGCU.

Countryman said the greatest gift is learning to include people with different backgrounds and opinions. She is a standout student, inspiring people by pushing positive change in her community.

“I know more about how to create an inclusive environment and a more comfortable environment for people around me how to become an ally,” Countryman said.

“A special, unique student,” Ndiang’ui said.

Reporter:Melinda Lee
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