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May 19, 2013 at 9:50 AM

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Diversity means opportunity in Tukwila


ERIKA SCHULTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Kindergartners, including Christian Fong, center in blue, wait in line for lunch at Tukwila Elementary School. Students speak about 40 languages, representing 20 countries around the world.

Largely ignored, sometimes mocked, and often mistaken as "Southcenter" after the shopping mall that occupies the city's south end, Tukwila has quietly taken its place beside New York and San Francisco as one of the most diverse cities in the country.

Reporter Susan Kelleher explores the once-sleepy suburb of Tukwila in this Sunday's Pacific Northwest Magazine feature story.

ERIKA SCHULTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

In the shadow of Seattle, a man crosses Tukwila International Boulevard to attend Friday prayers at the Abu-Bakr Islamic Center. Many residents believe the center, based in a former casino, has had a positive influence in the community. "They are good neighbors," says Mike Murphy, Tukwila Police public information officer.

ERIKA SCHULTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Councilman Joe Duffie gives out stickers as part of his weekly running program for students at Tukwila Elementary. Duffie, a former National Guardsman, shipyard employee and custodian, started the program in 1991. Kids run a quarter-mile during recess, working to improve fitness and earn awards such as pencils and notebooks.

ERIKA SCHULTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Barsha,11, left, and Bandana Sangraula, 9, play around their apartment complix in Tukwila. The girls, whose family is from Nepal, say their school friends speak a variety of languages including Spanish, Nepali and Somali.

ERIKA SCHULTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Members of the Bhutanese Nepali Christian Community sing during a Saturday worship service at their pastor's apartment in Tukwila. The Bhutanese (some of whom are Hindu and Buddhist) began to arrive in 2008 after living in refugee camps in Nepal.

ERIKA SCHULTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Members of the Bhutanese Nepali Christian Community worship at their pastor's apartment in Tukwila. Many of the Bhutanese refugees were settled in South King County and Everett, said Bob Johnson, executive director of International Rescue Committee Seattle. As of February 2013, about 65,075 Bhutanese have been resettled throughout the United States.

ERIKA SCHULTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Nepalese products are sold at the Tukwila Trading Company.

ERIKA SCHULTZ/ THE SEATTLE TIMES

Verica Kasumovic kisses daughter Jasmina Kasumovic's belly during her baby shower at the Samara Apartments in Tukwila. Many Bosnian refugees were resettled in the complex. Although many families have moved out and purchased homes in the city, they often meet at Samara's community cabana. Tukwila is the hub of Bosnian community. "We like to plant roots," says Borka Paponjak, resettlement program manager for the International Rescue Committee, seen behind in white scarf.

ERIKA SCHULTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Ena Ekmecic, 10, center, reacts while sampling spinach baby food during a Bosnian baby shower game at the Samara Apartments.

ERIKA SCHULTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Children play soccer on a well-worn field between apartment complexes in Tukwila. Apartments in this South Seattle suburb are home to many immigrant and refugee families.

ERIKA SCHULTZ/ THE SEATTLE TIMES

The Abu-Bakr Islamic Center empties after Friday prayers in Tukwila. Many residents believe the center, based in a former casino, has had a positive influence in the community. Abu-Bakr houses a mosque and school, as well as senior and youth programs. Their goal is to expand to meet the needs of their growing community.

PHOTOG NAME / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Zaynaba Gobana of Minneapolis, left, visits her childhood friend Halimo Galgalo, owner of the Top Fashion store in the Juba Shopping Mall in Tukwila. The women were separated for years after civil war and living in refugee camps. Galgalo sells traditional Somali textiles, abayas, scarves, blankets, shoes, purses, curtains, Islamic artwork and perfume. Her daughter, Nasro Omar, said many of the women in East Africa had small businesses in their homeland. "They are just starting again," Omar said.

ERIKA SCHULTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Top Fashion, located in Juba Shopping Mall, sells intricate holders for perfumes and oils. Halimo Galgalo, originally from Ethiopia, owns the shop.

ERIKA SCHULTZ/ THE SEATTLE TIMES

The Abu-Bakr Islamic Center empties after Friday prayers in Tukwila. Many residents believe the center, based in a former casino, has had a positive influence in the community.

ERIKA SCHULTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Mahad Asman holds his son, Luqman Mohamed, after Friday prayers at Abu-Bakr Islamic Center in Tukwila. Abu-Bakr, which houses a mosque, school, senior and youth programs, and counseling services, hopes to expand to meet the needs of its growing community.

ERIKA SCHULTZ/ THE SEATTLE TIMES

Taxi driver Afrasa Kifla, 44, finishes grocery shopping with his daughter Tsion Afrasa, 3, outside Tukwila Trading Company.

ERIKA SCHULTZ/ THE SEATTLE TIMES

Radu Nartea, assistant manager of Tukwila Trading Company, hangs promotional signs. Nartea, who has worked in the store since age 16, said people from all backgrounds in Tukwila co-exist peacefully with little discrimination. "I learn something new everyday because everybody has their own rituals," he said. "We're a family over here."

ERIKA SCHULTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Leydi Diaz, 9, gives Alejandra Cuellar, 2, a kiss while shopping at Tukwila Trading Company. The store, located just north of the Link light-rail station, offers products from around the world to meet the needs of its diverse clientele.

ERIKA SCHULTZ/ THE SEATTLE TIMES

Tukwila Trading Company sells a wide-variety of products from around the world, including lemon-flavored Russian soft drinks.

ERIKA SCHULTZ/ THE SEATTLE TIMES

Dilek, 2, shops with her mother Elvira, 28, originally from Turkey, at Tukwila Trading Company. The store, located just north of the Link Light Rail Station, offers products from around the world to meet the needs of their diverse clientele.

ERIKA SCHULTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Customers from a variety of ethnic backgrounds shop at Tukwila Trading Company. The store offers everything from Mexican spices to Russian soft drinks to cheese cubes made from yak's milk.

ERIKA SCHULTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Adam Towksjhea, 14, left, Zoe Towksjhea, 11, and D'Wayne Morris, 13, climb one of Tukwila's steep neighborhood hills. The students were on their way to play basketball after school. Old Tukwila or Tukwila Hill can be seen behind them.

ERIKA SCHULTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Street crime -- such as prostitution, drug offenses and disorderly conduct -- is more prevalent on Tukwila International Boulevard than in other parts of the city. The Tukwila Police Department reopened its Neighborhood Resource Center in the area, and has a team of five officers to work with businesses and residents to deter illegal activity.

ERIKA SCHULTZ/ THE SEATTLE TIMES

Around 200,000 cars, mostly on Interstates 5 and 405, pass through Tukwila each day. The daytime population surges to as many as 170,000, while a little less than 19,500 live here.

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