To most, Harrisonburg, Virginia is a rural college town (home of James Madison University) seated in the Shenandoah Valley. While that may be an accurate descriptor, Harrisonburg is also a highly populated refugee community; nearly 44 different languages are represented in the Harrisonburg City Schools.
According to figures published by The University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center, nearly 9 percent of the Harrisonburg population was born in another country. The Virginia Department of Social Services cites a total of 1,636 refugees resettling within the city limits of Harrisonburg over the past decade.
Now, don’t get me wrong; I bleed purple and gold and I root for the Dukes ALWAYS. However, I think that it is important to recognize that Harrisonburg is so much more than the home of the Dukes. Harrisonburg is a diversity-rich community–did you know that 36 percent of students enrolled in Harrisonburg public schools are classified as English Language learners?
Harrisonburg is a place with agricultural appeals, an affordable cost of living, plenty of blue collar jobs and a big refugee resettlement agency. All which, make Harrisonburg an ideal place for resettlement. Yes, Harrisonburg is the home of the great James Madison Dukes, but lets talk about something else. Lets create discourse about our very own refugee community, in hopes that we can foster a welcoming environment that celebrates diversity.