News Release

Published on Tuesday, October 23, 2007

LA CROSSE, Wis. – Open World leaders from Russia will join with Western Technical College faculty and students to recognize October as DisAbility Awareness Month. The Open World Program delegation will arrive on October 26th and participate in a weeklong professional and cultural exchange program organized by Western Technical College.

The purpose of their visit is to promote mutual understanding between U.S. social service providers and their Russian counterparts. The delegation will focus on community and family support services for people with disabilities and their families. The eight-person delegation, including two people from La Crosse’s Sister City of Dubna, will participate in the exchange organized by faculty and students in Western’s DisAbility Support Specialist Program. All the participants manage social and health services or advocacy programs for people with disabilities.

The public is invited to attend panel presentations by the delegation in La Crosse and Tomah. On Tuesday, October 30th, Health Sciences Center Room 2002, 1300 Badger Street, Open World delegates will discuss “Life in Russia with a DisAbility” as part of Western’s DisAbility Awareness activities. On Thursday, November 1st, Western’s Tomah Campus will host a “Lunch and Learn” session with the Russian delegation.

Managed by the independent Open World Leadership Center at the Library of Congress, Open World is designed to enhance understanding and capabilities for cooperation between the United States and the countries of Eurasia and the Baltic States by developing a network of leaders in the region who have gained significant, firsthand exposure to America’s democratic, accountable government and free-market system.

Western representatives have organized professional exchanges with local social and health service agencies, including: La Crosse County Human Services and the La Crosse County Aging and Disability Resource Center; the School District of La Crosse; Riverfront, Inc.; Independent Living Resources; and the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Tomah.
Homestays allow the Open World delegates to experience American family life. Host family volunteers from the Greater La Crosse area have the opportunity to learn about life in Russia today and discover work by the delegates in order to promote a democratic, civil society. Social events include a “Monday Night Football Packer Party” at the Rivoli Theater and joint recreation activities with Riverfront, Inc. Western’s Culinary Management program is planning a farewell recognition dinner for delegates and their host families.

The Open World Leadership Center awarded a grant to World Services of La Crosse to administer this exchange. Through partnerships with seven U.S. cities, World Services of La Crosse will host 90 Open World visitors in 2007. Other Open World delegations from Russia, Tajikistan, and Ukraine focus on rule of law, women leaders in elections, social services and education for youth, eco-tourism, and economic development.

The Open World Program is a non-partisan initiative of Congress designed to build mutual understanding between the United States and Russia. Since 1999, more than 11,000 Open World participants from 89 Russian regions have been hosted in all 50 states. Delegates represent official government offices, private business owners, managers of non-governmental organizations, and citizen volunteers.

For more information about the Open World program in La Crosse, contact Denise Diestler, DisAbility Support Specialist program head/instructor at Western Technical College, 608-789-6272. For more information about Open World, please visit For information on additional Western Technical College programs and services, call 608.785.9200 or visit the Web site at

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