It’s been more nearly 25 years since Laetitia Mizero Hellerud fled Burundi amid political and ethnic tensions, her son and four young siblings in tow.
She and her family were resettled in Fargo, North Dakota by an LIRS affiliate—and though she knew no one when she arrived in the freezing town, she quickly became a pillar in her community. She joined the staff of the resettlement office that had welcomed her and, over the years, came to serve as the preeminent intercultural liaison between businesses in Fargo and the ever-growing refugee community.
Soon, she found herself serving on multiple boards for local and regional organizations and, in 2020, on the North Dakota State Senate ballot.
“I never thought about being a politician, honestly, but I felt many voices were missing in Bismarck, especially looking at how our communities are changing and growing in diversity. We are shifting, but we’re not necessarily seeing that in our legislature. That didn’t make sense to me.”
Though she did not win the election, Laetitia made her mark. She continues to see herself as a bridge between cultures, and believes strongly that we can build on what unifies us rather than what divides us.
Today, Laetitia is the principal of her own diversity, equity, and inclusion consultancy and the author of Being at Home in the World. In 2020, she received the competitive and prestigious Bush Fellowship with a focus on increasing civic engagement among the New American community.
"I'm here to stay," she says, "and I'm here to help build our country...to make this place better."