Event shows Como residents’ diversity

Roughly 60 percent of the Como co-op population is international.

Children from the Como Student Community Co-op light sparklers Friday night after the Indian themed party thrown by the residents. The party celebrated cultural diversity in the community. 

Erin Westover

Children from the Como Student Community Co-op light sparklers Friday night after the Indian themed party thrown by the residents. The party celebrated cultural diversity in the community. 

Chelsey Knutson

The Southeast Como neighborhood celebrated its growing diversity Friday at the 35th anniversary of the opening of the Como Student Community Co-operative.

People from all over the world live in the Como neighborhood, said Stacy Miller, student neighborhood liaison at the co-op, and about 60 percent of the co-op population is originally from outside the United States.

“Within the city of Minneapolis, it is very diverse,” she said, “and this community is a great representation of that.”

Co-op manager Jerry Erickson, who has held the position for 30 years, said the international population of the co-op has increased by 40 percent since 1980.

As a liaison, Miller tries to bridge the gap between the co-op and the rest of the Como neighborhood and “build a sense of community because it is something that is being lost,” she said.

In 1975 the University of Minnesota formed the co-op with 279 units, Erickson said. Now there are 360 units and a waiting list.

Until recently, the co-op was only partnered and family housing, Miller said, but itâÄôs now open to single graduate students. Residents can live at the co-op for up to seven years.

Twice a year the co-op hosts an event that reflects the neighborhoodâÄôs diversity by celebrating a culture represented there.

On Friday, the community marked its 35th birthday with a Diwali festival.

The essence of Diwali, an Indian holiday also known as the festival of lights, is that good always wins over evil, said Sonai Chaudhuri, a resident of the co-op.

“The co-op is great because of events like this that allow you to interact with all of your neighbors,” Chaudhuri said.

Chaudhuri, originally from India, is a human resources development graduate student at the University. She has lived at the co-op for four years and is married with two kids.

ChaudhuriâÄôs family loves the community because of its proximity to the University and the vast diversity.

After Chaudhuri graduates, she wants to find a job in academia around the Minneapolis area.

“The long-term plan is to go back to India and do consulting,” Chaudhuri said.

Fernanda Honebrink, originally from Ecuador, has been at the co-op for six years. Her husband is a student at the University majoring in hemoglobin pathology, and they have two kids.

“The diversity is amazing at the co-op,” Honebrink said.

It was difficult leaving Ecuador and coming to Minneapolis at first, Honebrink said, but everyone was in the same situation at the co-op.

The co-op opens residents up to news things, and there is very little judgment, said Chelsey Herndon, a single mom and veteran of the Navy. She is a pre-nursing student at the University and has lived at the co-op for a year.

“ItâÄôs your family,” she said.

Honebrink said she now has best friends from Spain, Mexico and Guatemala.

“I am going to cry when I leave,” Honebrink said. “You make friends for life, and your kids make friends for life.”

At the co-op there is never a shortage of people lending a hand with everything from cleaning the dishes to babysitting kids, Miller said.