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Chuck Haga, Forum News Service, Published May 25 2013

Three North Dakotans among latest Bush Fellows

GRAND FORKS – International refugees resettled in Fargo, American Indians living in Bismarck and North Dakotans wrestling with effects of an oil boom and looking to boom-experienced Norway for sage advice – all are subjects to be tackled by some of the latest recipients of Bush Fellowships, given to people working to solve community problems.

Ryan Taylor, a rancher and former Democratic-NPL state senator from Towner, and the party’s candidate for governor in 2012, received his fellowship from the Bush Foundation to examine how Norway handled the risks and rewards of a booming oil industry.

Challenges of the surging oil development in western North Dakota figured significantly in his race for the governorship, which he lost to incumbent Republican Jack Dalrymple.

“I’m not in office right now, so I don’t see this as political at all,” Taylor said Thursday.

“I’m approaching it as these are two developed nations who share much in the way of culture, and there’s a lot we can learn from Norway. I want to take what I learn and share it. Whether you’re from Fargo or Tioga, you know this is important for all of North Dakota.”

He cited a recent New York Times story that drew comparisons between North Dakota and Kazakhstan, another place that has had to deal with sudden impacts of large-scale oil development.

“I would want the headline to be not that North Dakota is as bad as Kazakhstan but as good as Norway,” he said. “We have the opportunity to use the wealth created to go forward in a way that honors our past, ensures present prosperity and creates a future for our children that we can be proud of.”

Taylor noted that many North Dakotans, including himself and his family, are of Norwegian descent. He wants to “use that common heritage and our other similarities as developed communities to attract a statewide audience into a conversation about the oil boom.”

He said he’s planning two trips to Norway. He’s also hoping to learn some of the language, “out of respect for the people.”

Other recipients

Cheryl Kary, of Bismarck, wrote in her application that she wants to develop community partnerships to improve opportunities for “urban Indians,” allowing them to be “fully integrated into the civic and community life of Bismarck-Mandan.”

Kevin Brooks, of Fargo, wrote that he wants to develop a team of “dedicated ‘literacy sponsors’ or mentors” who would help new Americans learn English and become contributing members of their community.

“Since 1997, the Fargo-Moorhead area has been an important resettlement center,” he wrote in his application. “The influx of these new residents, most of whom don’t speak English, presents them and the community with significant challenges.”

Seven other 2013 Bush Fellows, six from Minnesota and one from South Dakota, were named this week. Their projects include helping Somali women become more involved in politics, updating the Sioux Falls, S.D., community arts and culture plan, engaging African-American men to become more involved in their families as providers and role models, and improving military veterans’ access to services.

Fellows are selected from a pool of online applicants. Their projects are funded by grants of $30,000 to $80,000.

The foundation declares as its mission “to be a catalyst for the courageous leadership necessary to create sustainable solutions to tough public problems and ensure community vitality.” It was established in 1953 and began offering fellowships in 1965, working in communities across Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota and in 23 American Indian nations in the region.

For more information on the Bush Foundation and how to apply for a fellowship, go to www.bushfoundation.org.

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