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'Say Hey!' event aims to connect people of color with other professionals in their field and beyond

SUBMITTED PHOTO: ADRIAN DIAZ - Adrian Diaz was one of nearly two dozen honorees at last Thursdays 'Say Hey!' event at Marylhurst University. Diaz, an admissions coordinator at Marylhurst, moved to Portland last year from Los Angeles. Business executives, local elected officials and representatives of several higher-education institutions converged at Marylhurst University last week to celebrate and honor the diversity of new members and recent transplants to Portland's business community.

The "Say Hey!" event hosted by Partners in Diversity, an affiliate of the Portland Business Alliance, aimed to help acclimate and connect multicultural professionals who recently moved to Oregon and Southwest Washington to the people and resources around them.

Among those honored at Thursday evening's event was Adrian Diaz, who serves as an admissions coordinator at Marylhurst University. Diaz, who moved to Portland just over a year ago from Los Angeles, said these types of events are useful to professionals of color, like himself, who are looking to connect with all sorts of people across higher education and beyond.

"There's a very big difference (from Los Angeles) in terms of how few people of color you see in Oregon, so not knowing where to go to interact with people who share similar cultural traditions as you is kind of scary at first," Diaz said. "So having these events that say, 'We're here too, we exist and want to partner' is exciting. It's great that (Partners in Diversity) wants to take the time to welcome me as someone who is new to Oregon."

Marylhurst Academic Advisor Melinda Hendley agreed. Hendley serves as a "Say Hey!" buddy, whose role is to greet and introduce honorees to different people they know within the community. She praised Marylhurst for hosting events like this in coordination with Partners in Diversity.

"First and foremost, Marylhurst bringing this type of event onto their campus is really great exposure for people to realize what a beautiful community this is and what great work we do here," Hendley said. "I also love the idea that we're bringing in such a diverse group of people to connect with one another."

One of the intended outcomes of the evening was that Hendley walked away with a variety of new contacts in her professional arsenal, from both the private and public sectors. As an advisor who specializes in helping veteran students and students with disabilities, Hendley said the connections she made at the "Say Hey!" event will be invaluable as she helps Marylhurst students pursue a post-graduate education or find a job.

"I think this is a great way for me to connect with people in the community in and outside of education, but it's also a way for me to connect my students who are about to graduate to these types of events, where they're going to connect with people," she said. "You never know who you're going to meet. You don't know what connections or resources they have that could benefit you in the future. So I think it's beneficial for everybody."

"Say Hey!" events take place on a quarterly basis, according to Partners in Diversity's website. Executive Director Mari Watanabe said the event is part of an ongoing effort to make sure incoming professionals of color have all the resources they need to succeed once they relocate to the Portland area.

"When you come here, it's hard to find your community, so we bring the community to them. It's a great way for our multicultural community to connect with each other," Watanabe said.

For more information about Partners in Diversity, go to www.partnersindiversity.org.

Contact Lake Oswego Review reporter Sam Stites at 503-636-1281 ext. 102 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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