History of the Adirondack Diversity Initiative
Adirondack Diversity Initiative (ADI) originated from the outcome of a 2014 symposium entitled, Toward a More Diverse Adirondacks, held at the Adirondack Interpretive Center at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Newcomb, NY. This well-attended symposium included attendance and participation from a broad swath of residents, activists, educators, and community leaders, who collectively gave the organizers two guiding imperatives:
The Adirondack region should be welcoming to and inclusive of everyone.
The Adirondack region should be relevant to and supported by an increasingly diverse New York State and American population.
Upon functioning as an entity in 2015, ADI immediately began its work toward making the Adirondacks a more welcoming and inclusive place. Since then, ADI has designed and directed many outreach programs, including, but not limited to:
Establishing formal alliances with nearly two dozen leading organizations in the Adirondack region.
Building a strong advisory network from outside the Park, including recognized experts on diversity.
Consulting on marketing and outreach to minorities and the LGBTQ community.
Holding multiple diversity workshops and education sessions.
Creating a bi-directional youth exchange program.
Establishing an annual symposium.
In May 2019, New York State announced that $250,000 of its 2020 budget would go to ADI as part of the $300 million Environmental Protection Fund. The new grant funding allowed the hiring of ADI’s first director, Nicole “Nicky” Hylton-Patterson to be hired in December of 2019. Nicky brings a unique cultural perspective to the new position. Born in Jamaica, she spent her formative years in northern Norway as part of a gifted child program. Hylton-Patterson has 20 years of experience leading activities and programs geared toward advancing diversity, equity and inclusion. Hylton-Patterson holds a master’s degree in Pan African Studies from Syracuse University, a master’s degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology University, and a bachelor's degree in African & African American Studies and Philosophy from Mount Holyoke College.
Knowing the Regional Needs
To gauge possible expressions of interest from local business owners, residents, civic leaders and others about ADI’s multi-prong approach toward assisting our region, ADI undertook several steps. First, ADI conducted longitudinal demographic and economic research to better understand areas like population decline, regional employment dynamics, school enrollment decline, along with national trends pertaining to shifting demographics. In turn, this provided ADI with a more holistic understanding of what is occurring in both the Park and throughout the United States. Key to ADI’s approach to and understanding of our regional needs, it too is worth noting that ADI is comprised of a network of people and organizations who are intimately involved in all aspects of ADK community life. More specifically, ADI consists of individuals who are integrated into and are a part of the regional community who live here, buy groceries here, send their children to school here, and are as affected by the circumstances and economic realities as their neighbors.
Given the overly-reliant economic dependency on travel and tourism to the region, local residents, small business owners, and elected officials have just as much to gain as they have to lose. For instance, were it not for tourism-generated state and local taxes, the average ADK household would have to pay an additional $1,509 to maintain the same level of government revenue. For local and county officials, along with residents alike, any disruption to this tax base could either result in reduced services or proposed tax hikes in order to maintain current levels. Again, if residents, local business owners, and elected officials wish to continue these benefits, then it is vitally important that we create and maintain a more diverse and inclusive Adirondacks.
With interest and support from multiple constituencies throughout the Park, ADI interacted with other regional groups driven by similar missions, and began to advance its efforts as previously described. To date, ADI’s work throughout the region continues to benefit from great praise and acknowledgment and is growing exponentially.