ST. CLOUD - Creating diversity and providing dental care to children in need is the focus behind the Initiative Foundation.

Partnering through the Delta Dental Foundation the Initiative Foundation received a $200,000 grant. The grant will help bring diversity to two dental programs in central Minnesota.

St. Cloud Technical and Community College along with Central Lakes Community College in Brainerd will each receive $90,000 over the course of the next two years to help increase diversity in their dental sectors.

Vice President for Community and Economic Development, Don Hickman says each dental program will target ethnic populations that are higher in each area.

"In St. Cloud they are primarily targeting somali students and in the Brainerd area they will be targeting Mille Lacs indian band members and latinos." -Hickman

Over the past three years the Initiative Foundation has focused on reducing barriers for children in need of dental care. Hickman says the most obvious obstacle is poverty but in St. Cloud the barriers between culture and language are preventing kids from getting adequate dental care. The grant will help provide more examples or models for dental hygiene careers that will inspire others to pursue a career in the field and reduce barriers.

Hickman says "With the more diverse workforce you'll have greater cultural sensitivity and reduce the language barriers that in turn will help reduce barriers to care for kids in poverty from those ethnicities."

The grant will also be used in connection with the Diversity of the Dental Workforce in Central Minnesota project. This project helps promote diversity in the dental careers during different cultural events, develop a recruiting and retention process to help students finish their dental programs and it will help students secure jobs as they graduate.

Other than the Diversity of the Dental Workforce in Central Minnesota project the grant will also be used to help provide supplies for students in the classroom.

Academic Adviser at SCTCC, Tiffany Korver says "Financially, many of our students will likely get their tuition covered by a Pell Grant, so one of the main ways we hope to support them is through those 'extra' expenses that come into play while a student is in college."

Krover says supplies cost upwards of $2,000 for the dental hygiene program, students often can't afford paying for tools, gloves, uniforms or books and this grant will help provide those materials.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development says the average hourly wage in the St. Cloud area for those in the dental hygiene field is $32.15-37.27. The demand for those needed in the dental hygiene field is expected to rise over the next 10 years.