Featured Traveler: Gary Tyson

The Center for International Understanding (becoming Go Global NC), through its many programs, has given North Carolina teachers and community leaders the opportunity to travel all over the globe. They have gained perspectives on education and community building in other countries, and applied that knowledge to their own communities throughout North Carolina. More than 8,000 individuals have traveled to 48 countries with a CIU delegation. In this special blog series, we’ll feature delegates that are making a difference in their community and applying what they learned from a CIU program. 

This month, we get to know Gary Tyson, Chief of Police, Siler City Police Department.

IMG_1439Program:

Latino Initiative, 2015

What is your company and position? How did that relate to the program?

My company is the Siler City Police Department. I am the Chief of Police. As the Chief of Police in a town that is 50% Hispanic, the program allowed me to walk in the shoes of half my population. It also let me see why some of my residents would risk it all to come to the U.S. The trip to Mexico helped make me become more culturally competent, which in return empowered me with greater empathy and respect for the sacrifices that many of my residents made to come to the U.S.

What is your background? How did that relate to the program?

As the Chief of Police for a small town with a population of 9,000, half of which are Hispanic, this program allowed me to go to the home country of many of my residents and witness firsthand the harsh realities of Mexico life. I was also able to better understand what inspires and motivates some Mexicans to risk it all to come to another country that they believe is truly a land of opportunity.

Why did you choose to participate in the Latino Initiative Program?

I participated in the Latino Initiative program because I felt called to do it. I felt that some core questions that I had about my Hispanic residents could only be answered by walking in their shoes on their home soil.

What have you gained from participating in the program?

I gained more than I have room or time to write. But, a few core lessons learned were: Immigration in Mexico is seen as a solution, whereas the U.S. sees immigration as a problem. Mexico has lost a lot of its brainpower to the U.S. It is up to us to tap into that brainpower and bring the Hispanic residents in as full partners. I came back with some new tools to empower my Hispanic residents to help make their new Town and new State a better place for all of us.

How have you applied what you learned to your current position?

I have had a paradigm shift in how I interact with my Hispanic residents. I now view them as very courageous and determined partners. With that paradigm shift, my expectations of what this part of my population can accomplish has risen.

What was your “ah ha moment”? What did you bring back to implement in your community?

My “ah ha moment” was when I found out that for some men in Mexico, coming to the U.S. is a rite of passage. For some of the people I talked to, this is causing the breakdown of some Mexican families. I came back with clear eyes on my own shortcomings and preconceived ideas about the Mexican culture. With a sobering kick of reality from having boots on the ground in Mexico, I now am able to interact with greater understanding of those I am communicating with. 

What advice do you have for other travelers?

Go with a mandate to learn as much as you humanly can learn. Take a lot of notes. Be ready to experience new cultures, but also be ready for some really hard work if you are truly going to bring back new tools to make a difference in your communities when you return.

Why is this CIU program important to North Carolina? Why is it important that the program continue?

This CIU program is important to North Carolina because as we become more culturally competent of each other, barriers are broken, and we truly become each other’s brothers and sisters. We realize that we have much more in common than not. When this happens, something magical happens as preconceived opinions that are not based on reason or actual experience disappear with sober-eyed realities from personal contacts. I believe this program is important because it will continue to make NC a global leader in embracing different cultures, melting together into a harmonious and unifying State.

See more from Gary Tyson. Watch this short video of his address to our Global Engagement Summit held in November 2015 as SAS.