Board of Directors

KEVIN BROOKS, President

Kevin Brooks was born and raised in Canada, but became a US citizen in 2011.  He has been a professor of English at North Dakota State University since 1997; he primarily teaches courses in writing and professional communication.  In 2007, he traveled to the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya and into South Sudan as part of a documentary / humanitarian project called African Soul, American Heart; he still serves on the Board of Directors for that organization.  Kevin was a Bush Foundation Fellow from 2013-15; he used that time and support to re-launch Giving + Learning, an ELL tutoring program that has since become a program within The Consortium.  Brooks is married to Betsy Birmingham, also a professor of English at NDSU; they parent five children, four still in Fargo.


LAETITIA MIZERO HELLERUD, Board Secretary

Laetitia Hellerud is a native of Burundi. She was resettled in Fargo as a refugee with her family in 1998 and became a US citizen five years later. Laetitia has worked for and with refugees as well as other minority groups for the past 25 years, inside and outside the USA. She is currently self-employed as a consultant providing educational services in the areas of multiculturalism/diversity and refugee/immigrants issues. She also provides translation services in several languages. Besides the Consortium, Laetitia serves on other Boards and committees, including the Fargo Human Relations Commission and the Lost and Found Ministries (ReGroup). Laetitia is married to Mark Hellerud, a farmer/attorney. They have two children: Yann and Nicole, and a springer spaniel named Laurel.


EZZAT ALHAIDAR, Board Member

Ezzat was born in Iraq. He has a family of 5 kids,  wife and his mother. He has a bachelor in teaching English as the second language from Iraq. He worked as an interpreter with U.S. army for 8 years and as a teacher for five years in Iraq. He also worked with the nonprofit organizations in Iraq for a while. Ezzat and his family came to the U.S. with a special immigrant visa on May 12th 2014. Since arriving, Ezzat has earned a bachelors in Communication Studies and International Studies from Minnesota State University of Moorhead, graduating in May of 2017. He is working as an interpreter with Family Health Care and is active with community events and organizations in the Fargo-Moorhead area.


MARA BRUST, Board Member

Mara first became involved in advocacy as the Fargo Co-Chair and then Vice-President of New Generation North Dakota. In addition to serving on the board of directors of the New American Consortium for Wellness and Empowerment, she currently serves on the City of Fargo Planning Commission, the board of directors of the Arts Partnership, the Planned Parenthood North Dakota Advisory Committee, and the North Dakota Association of Justice Board of Governors. Mara has been practicing law for six years with Conmy Feste Ltd. in Fargo.


J Saywala Kennedy, Board Member

J Saywala Kennedy was born and raised in Liberia, and came to the United States in 2011. Kennedy attended the Cuttington University in Liberia where he earned his undergraduate degree in accounting. Kennedy is currently the president of the Liberian community in North Dakota, (ULAND). Kennedy is married to Dr. Joyce Kennedy with two beautiful girls, Ellicia and Richelle. Kennedy has been involved in other community organizations before coming to the United- president of the peace island community in Congo town, Monrovia. Kennedy also served as president of the Federation of Lofa universities students, (FLUS), Chairman of the Movement for progressive change, (MPC) Liberia. Kennedy also served a  former of the Lofa citizens in North Dakota. Besides being on the board of the consortium, Kennedy also serves on the board of the legal services of north western Minnesota, (LSNM).


BARRY NELSON, Board Member

Barry considers himself to be a community activist. Whether it has been as a social worker working for the county or state, a program coordinator for Lutheran Social Services, director of the Head Start Program with Southeastern North Dakota Community Action Agency, Barry has always found that there are so many institutional and policy practices and laws that stand in the way of people experiencing their true, full participation in their community. Barry was a founding meme of the Fargo Human Rights Commission, the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition (served as chair for a number of years and currently is employed as their organizer), serves n the board of River Keepers, and is Chair of Cass County Democratic-NPL. He sees his greatest accomplishment to be the diverse and talented group of friends with which he is surrounded.


VONNIE SANDERS, Board Member

Vonnie Sanders calls the Fargo/Moorhead area her home. She graduated from Moorhead High School and received her Elementary Ed, ELL endorsement, and Masters in Reading at MSUM. She worked with Fargo Public Schools for 22 years, first teaching English Language Learners and finally as Director of the ELL program. Vonniei has learned far more from the students and families with whom she has been privileged to work with than she has taught them. Besides volunteering with ELLs, she is a leader at Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) and hangs out with her two daughters, their husbands, and her 7 grandkids.