COLUMBUS, Neb. -- Two Columbus entities became two of 16 recipients from across the world to participate in a worldwide exchange for rural communities.

The City of Columbus and Centro Hispano were chosen by Welcoming America to participate in its Rural Welcoming Communities Exchange.

As part of the program, the recipients from across the United States and Australia will be involved in international virtual and in-person exchanges with peers, attend substantive training workshops and have access to multimedia materials to build context for deep learning.

“Of our population in Columbus, about 25% identifies as an immigrant," City Administrator Tara Vasicek said. "All of the people in our community are vital to the economic success of Columbus, including our immigrant population. We want to be doing everything we can to make sure they’re comfortable here and that we’re doing our best to make Columbus a great home for everybody.”

Although the program will feature many virtual visits, it will require participants to gather for a five-night stay in San Jose, Calif., in April when it begins and a five-night stay in Australia at its conclusion in October. Program expenses are covered by Welcoming America, a nonprofit organization that supports institutions' need to become more inclusive toward immigrants and all other residents.

“Tara is an awesome person, so for us to have the full support of people like Tara and the mayor (Jim Bulkley), it means a lot,” Centro Hispano Welcoming & Belonging Director Elizabeth Rodriguez said. “It’s immensely gratifying and tells us that while Columbus is already a welcoming city, the City of Columbus is willing to step up to make it even more welcoming.”