EAGLE GROVE, Iowa -Now that two employees from the KIOW radio station in Forest City have been fired for making racial comments about students from Eagle Grove High School before a basketball game in Forest City last week, one of the students they were talking about is speaking out.
Sitting down with Nikolas Padilla at Eagle Grove High School, he tells KIMT the support has just been overwhelming.
“As Trump would say, go back to where you came from,” Orin Harris said in a recording from The Cube.
“The one part that struck the most was the one part about going back to where you came from,” Padilla says.
The 17-year-old heard comments made about him he never thought he'd hear.
“I was shocked because I didn't think we still had racism in today's time,” Padilla said.
“They have Nikolas Padilla from Eagle Grove. They have a lot of Española people, a lot of Espanola people in Eagle Grove,” Harris said during the recording.
Padilla is from Clear Lake. He just moved to Eagle Grove two years ago and says the community and school district welcomed him and his family with open arms. When comments were made by Harris and Holly Jane Kusserow-Smidt that he should go back to where he came from, he says it hurt. Padilla explains his dad is from Mexico and lived a hard life, dropping out of school to help his father's parents.
“To me, that hurt me because he came here to make a difference for himself and to improve my family,” Padilla said.
He says his dad came to the U.S. to better himself and he takes pride in that, stressing even though the comments being made by the two are wrong, he doesn't want this incident to become even bigger than it already is.
“I know it’s a huge deal but I didn't want it to be a huge deal because I’m not the guy who likes all the public attention,” Padilla said.
Instead, he wants people to forgive.
“Forgive him and accept his apology because I’m not the one who's going to hold a grudge against him for the rest of his life for the decision he made. I know I’ve made decisions in my life that my friends held grudges against but they forgave me because they're my friends.”
The superintendent of the Eagle Grove School district tells KIMT that racism is a topic that comes up often.
Jess Toliver has been Eagle Grove's superintendent for nine years. He stresses when dealing with a minority population you're bound to encounter racism. Toliver says while you can try to ignore it, it is best to address it.
“The main thing is in our school district everybody is welcome, no matter where you come from. We’re not a rich town, not a flashy town, we take care of our kids, and we take care of our community. The main thing is if you come here you're going to be safe, you're going to be taken care of,” Toliver said.
According to a U.S. census report from 2000, Eagle Grove's Hispanic community made up about 2 percent of the town's population.
By 2015, that number had climbed to more than 13 percent.
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