Meet Julia Schott (she/her), a Vista Member for AmeriCorps, assigned to Cultural Diversity Resources (CDR) and the members of the Multicultural Alliance as their Communications Manager since January 2021.
Julia, pronounced “Hooleah,” was born and raised in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, and moved to a rural small town in North Dakota in December 2007. She missed the diversity she had grown up accustomed to, so she eventually made the move to live in Fargo in 2009. In 2012, she moved back to the rural small town—to try again. However, small-town life was very difficult for her after spending most of her adult life in Santo Domingo (a city with over 2 million people). As a self-proclaimed social butterfly, the quiet life was definitely not right for her. So she came back to Fargo-Moorhead to stay a second time, for good, and has been a north Fargo resident since 2015. She is a mother to three amazing girls—Lara (15), Emma (10), and Tania (6). She is bilingual, with Spanish as her first language.
She has more than 10 years of experience as an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teacher in her home country, and over 6 years of experience as a Spanish Interpreter in the FM area, working in hospitals, schools, and the court system, along with being a translator for different businesses. Her work as an interpreter made her interested in participating in helping and being an advocate for those without a voice, so working for a nonprofit in town was the next logical step. She also writes articles about her life and experiences as an immigrant from a small country, and a neurodiverse mother with ADHD for a local virtual magazine, Fargo Mom.
Her background is in the arts, with a degree in Design that includes a minor in Photography, but she’s always enjoyed working with people the best. She’s responsible for the web and mobile sites for CDR and their partners, and their social media communications. Every Thursday, she writes a cultural blog post on CDR’s website. She’s also a board member for Kondial Kel International, a nonprofit focused on bettering the lives of women around the world through education and community-related activities.
Her job at CDR gives her the privilege to tell others about the wonderful work these amazing people do every day, so they can continue working for the community and introduce them to other amazing people. Then, together, they can make this area a more inclusive and diverse place to live, so newcomers and people of color, like herself, can also feel as much at home living here as she has grown to feel these past years.
The FM area is fortunate to have Julia and her family love this community and call it their beloved home.
Until we meet again:
Where do you call home?
That is a difficult question to answer for me. I was born in the Dominican Republic, two blocks or so from the Atlantic Ocean, in a small town named Puerto Plata. After graduating high school, I moved to the capital, Santo Domingo. For most of my adult life, the DR was my home. But now, when I’m abroad and I think of home, what comes to mind is not the beach or the palm trees and almond groves of my hometown—what I miss is the prairie. Fargo is the place I call home, against all odds and despite being 2,500 miles from everything and everyone I grew up with. When I’m away, I long to come back home—to the Red River Valley.
What’s the story behind your passion for giving to your community?
I grew up watching my family help others. It is what you’re supposed to do. You’re supposed to use your privilege to serve others. They had friends from all walks of life, literally. I grew up in a very diverse household—something that shaped who I am as a person now. I had the joy and the good fortune of experiencing real inclusivity and diversity firsthand, something I took for granted until I realized my upbringing was not quite as normal as other people’s. As an adult, I wanted to follow their example and leave the world a bit better than I found it. I hope I can do that while bringing joy to the people I meet and also being an example of all that to my own girls.
What was your life like before moving to Fargo?
I had quite an unusual childhood. My dad was a very popular public personality in my home country, which made people look at his children as curiosities. I grew up with my grandmother and moved to the capital when I graduated high school. There, I started in communications but ended up changing my major after a couple of years to design. A few months after graduating, I met who would become the father of my children, and after another couple of years, I married and moved to the mountains there. He brought me to North Dakota 15 years ago. I arrived in winter with a couple of suitcases, a baby and a stray dog. My youngest two children were born here and Fargo became my home in the process. We had three wonderful girls that are my pride and joy and who we are raising together as friends as we are divorced now. I think it’s interesting that I ended up working in communications again. My college advisor was right after all—I should have continued my studies. I also recently got diagnosed with ADHD, so I’m navigating how to be true to myself and my neurodiversity. Life has been good to me; I’ve met many dear friends in this place.
What are some misconceptions about people from the Caribbean Islands?
Something I hear frequently is that people from the Caribbean don’t have the same work ethic as people in the US. Nothing is further from the truth. Most people I know are hardworking and dedicated. The difference is that what we call self-care here is just normal life there. This desire to spend time in leisure is sometimes misconstrued as a lack of desire to work.
Another misconception has to do with the idea that we all live in huts and that most are uneducated and in abject poverty. That is true for some, but not all Dominicans. I lived most of my life in a city of two million people, and all the people I grew up with are very well-educated and speak at least two languages. My country is so much more than just rum, cigars, tourism, and poverty.
What are some of the activities you wish there were in the FM area?
I love to eat, so I’m always happy when I see people opening restaurants and bringing their culinary culture to the area. I also love to dance, being Dominican, but right now, the only places to do so are more class-oriented. There’s a lot of structure and counting which is nothing like the dancing I grew up with. I wish there was a place I could go just to dance without a class.
On a more serious note, I’d like more basic financial classes for newcomers, BIPOC, and anyone else who would need them. We at the Cultural Diversity Resources (CDR) are starting to address this last concern, and I’ve seen others in town do so as well, but they are still very limited. We are offering a class in July on credit control and management, free for the public, at the Moorhead Public Library. For more information on this and future classes, check our website culturaldiversityresources.org.
As a community leader, what is the next problem you are trying to solve?
I have the privilege of working with an amazing team that deeply cares for this community. Each one of them focuses on different problems depending on who they serve. What we’ve seen as a group is the need to educate adults on how to manage their finances, limited as they are, because if you don’t have a plan, you waste valuable resources and often end up with a lot of debt. Some of us have never used credit cards or had any sort of education on how to budget, the importance of saving for the future, or even how to plan for healthy, cheap, and easy meals within our means.
So, we’ve set out to start connecting with people in the area that will offer their time and expertise to educate others no matter their ethnicity or how long they’ve been here. We want people that come to our office to not only find the help they need but also to be able to overcome their financial problems and become organized which, ultimately, will allow them to build wealth of their own.
What is your vision for 2030 for the Fargo-Moorhead community?
The way I see it, there are a lot of good things in store for us in the next few years. More people will integrate into the fabric of our community, and it will become even more diverse and vibrant. I also think we will see more participation of BIPOC leaders in politics and in all aspects in the community and the rest of the country, both male and female. I think there will be more professionals of color in our schools and hospitals as well.