Ethiopian immigrant wants to make waves in Aurora


AURORA | It has not been easy for Endale Getahun to find a location for the business he wants to start in Aurora, mostly because he needs space for a 100-foot-tall tower.

Getahun wants to go on the air with a radio station serving the region’s growing ranks of African immigrants.

“Low power FM radio stations are for communities who don’t have outlets to communicate with fellow citizens,” said Getahun of 93.9 KETO-FM, a non-profit Getahun launched with the hopes of hosting the first immigrant-focused radio station in the city. 

Getahun said he first conceived of the idea for the radio station while traveling with Aurora City Council members to visit Adama, Aurora’s sister city, last year. He said the station would not only serve Aurora residents from Ethiopia, but would be a multicultural radio station for all of Aurora’s African community.

“We are working with different immigrants from different countries,” Getahun said. “We are definitely working with the City of Aurora and the City of Denver to pinpoint immigrants who want to use our radio station in the future.”

He said KETO’s program schedule would not only include multicultural shows, but information that is important for immigrants from agencies such as the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. 

Getahun immigrated to the U.S. with his parents from Ethiopia in 1984. For several years, he said he lived in Aurora, but today lives nearby in Denver with his wife and two children.

He said his radio and television experience dates back to his first years in Colorado when the first Ethiopian television channel launched in Denver. His work in local media since that time has involved freelancing as a cameraman for several African Embassies both in Denver and Washington D.C.

Getahun said KETO-FM is also about dispelling preconceived notions about Ethiopia as a country.  Getahun said when he moved here, everyone in the U.S. thought Ethiopians were all starving because the hunger epidemic was all that was being covered by national news sites.

“The media is powerful, and it can be used for the positive. That’s when I decided I needed to start my own media,” Getahun said.

In January of 2000, the Federal Communications Commission created a low power FM radio protocol specifically to serve noncommercial educational entities such as churches, schools and nonprofits. Low power FM stations can operate at a maximum power of 100 watts, which generally provides coverage of three to five miles. Getahun first started meeting with the Aurora officials about a space for KETO nearly a year ago. According to city documents, city staff reached out to several businesses who could not host Getahun’s radio tower due to zoning requirements.  It was Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan who introduced Getahun to Bob Hagedorn, president of the Aurora Cultural Arts District board of directors and founder of the Fax Aurora business league.

“This is a unique concept and it’s unique enough that it makes sense for the city to be involved and to help,” Hogan said. “It addresses a need in the immigrant community, the Ethiopian community in particular. That uniqueness is part of the reason why both the city is helping and why it’s taking so long.”

Hogan said this is the first time Aurora has worked with a resident who has wanted to start a radio station for immigrants.

Hagedorn said he became interested in working with Getahun because of the city’s growing immigrant African population.

Aurora is the most diverse city in Colorado with 1 in 5 residents who are foreign-born. According to 2016 demographic data, between 2010 and 2014, the city’s foreign-born population increased by 6 percent with the largest number of immigrants coming from Africa and Asia. Aurora’s largest number of African residents are Ethiopians at nearly 3,000 residents, followed by the more than 1,000 immigrants from Ghana. 

“Endale’s personal story is significant,” added Hagedorn. “I’m a sucker for a good story. It’s powerful to see how determined Endale is. It’s a great thing he’s trying to do.”

Recently, Hagedorn was able to work with Aurora Public Schools to find a suitable location for the KETO radio tower at Aurora Central High School thanks to the help of former Aurora Councilwoman Debi Hunter Holen. 

Jay Grimm, executive director of the Aurora Public Schools Foundation, said the opportunity to work with KETO made sense due to Central’s diverse student population, where four out of 10 students are English language learners.

Hagedorn said the next steps will be looking for office space to house staff and a control room, applying for grants, and fundraising for equipment.

“Having an antenna location is very big for us at this point. It also gives us credibility with foundations in terms of applying for money,” Hagedorn said.

Getahun said he is very interested in the idea of partnering with the Aurora Welcome Center, a former APS building near Central that serves as a learning space for immigrants and refugees who come to the city.