Maribel Palomo – CulturFest Ambassador for 2017

The youngest of eight children growing up in a Migrant family, Maribel has used her personal experience and challenges to become a strong leader and advocate for others. Maribel grew up in Texas and moved to Owatonna in 2000. She and her husband have four children attending various schools in Owatonna.

Maribel has experienced learning a second language and is passionate about assisting others to meet their full potential and find success in the school system and in their work setting. She is motivated by projects that help to bridge cultures and support education for children and adults.
Maribel has been employed in a variety of capacities including work at Regional Head Start Office in Apple Valley, Tri Valley Head Start, and Bushel Boy Farms. As a certified interpreter of Spanish, she has served in this capacity with Gardens & Associates, SASCO, the Owatonna Clinic, Steele County Courts, and Steele County Human Services. She has also completed an interpreter certification program which allows her to be a trainer of interpreters. Last year, she earned her Associates Degree in Arts & Ministry from the Latin American Theology and Ministry Institute and serves as a lay pastor in her church as well as youth program supervisor.
Within her role with Owatonna Public Schools, she has worked as the Spanish Liaison at Wilson Elementary and now serves Owatonna Middle School. She has also worked with the ISD 761 Migrant Program, several years during Summer School and been a leader in the annual Day of the Child celebration.
Organizing efforts to reach out and help families navigate within the community, Maribel has been a bridge for cross cultural communication. Always hard-working and committed in her role, Maribel uses her Spanish language proficiency and kind, generous heart to help hundreds of families.
Serving with an open heart, seeking equity and success for all, we are very pleased to award this year’s CulturFest Ambassador award to Maribel Palomo.

“Maribel Palomo is a gift to the community of Owatonna. Her tireless efforts in her role as a liaison in the Owatonna Public Schools has helped bridge communication, understanding, and relationships between our schools and the Latino community. She is passionate about ensuring ALL students and families feel welcome and accepted in our schools and in our community. You couldn’t find a better candidate for CulturFest Ambassador because Maribel embodies the spirit of this organization. In honoring Maribel for her work in seeking respect and equity for ALL, you help shed light on the importance of everyone recognizing the strengths, differences, and similarities we all share. “

                    Julie Sullivan, Principal, Owatonna Middle School


           Applications Acccepted Now for 2018                   Nomination form

This award is given to a member of the Owatonna community and surrounding area who has exemplified our organization’s mission:

We believe all people deserve to be treated with respect.
We recognize that diversity encompasses all cultures, races, religions, genders, ages, sexual orientations, economics, and levels of physical or mental abilities.
We are not affiliated with any particular cultural group, but seek to provide understanding and respect for all cultures.
We accept that cultural differences are not better or worse than one another, but simply different. We do not seek to change or convert people from their cultural values.
We believe that it is important to safeguard the human rights of all people in Steele County.
We believe that it is important not just to tolerate differences, but to celebrate and accept them.

The award is given to an individual exemplifying these criteria:

  • Promotes goodwill within the community.
  • Positively represents the mission and beliefs of the Cultural Diversity Network.
  • Is an advocate for their own culture and a student of others.
  • Celebrates our unique cultural diversity and fosters strong cross cultural relationships


In 2016, CulturFest honored Ibrahim Hussein with the CulturFest Ambassador Award.

Ibrahim Hussein was named the first recipient of the award. Hussein is the Founder and Executive Director of the Somali American Cultural Society of IbrahimOwatonna, a non-profit organization that works with Kindergarten through 12 students providing tutoring and homework assistance. He is a business owner, full time student at Winona State University, and is a Commissioner on the Human Rights Commission of Owatonna.  His dream is to become an elementary teacher with a special fondness for math.

Cultural Diversity Network President, Sue Schroeder had this to say about Hussein, “Ibrahim is a true servant within our community. He works in so many capacities: as an immigrant settlement guide, teacher, bridge builder, advocate, business mentor and employer. Ibrahim makes things happen to help people reach their goals. Always a hard worker, he is supportive and persistent in his efforts. Owatonna is very fortunate that he calls our City home.”

Congratulations, Ibrahim, on this well deserved award!