Meet Our Staff
Julie N. Ramos Lagos
Julie Ramos Lagos was born and raised in Northwest North Dakota. In 1997 she studied internationally in Canada and has a M.A in Student Development, B.A. in Intercultural Studies, B.A. Social Sciences, and a Certificate of T.E.S.O.L. Julie has over 25+ years experience working with New Americans and immigrants. Julie currently speaks intermediate Spanish but has studied Spanish, German, Arabic, Cantonese, Greek, Hebrew, and more. Julie loves traveling & international foods, and has spent time in China, Europe, Honduras, Mexico, and started a Spanish ministries in the Bakken during the oil boom.
Nataliia Ostapchuk was born and raised in Ukraine.
She has graduated from the art college of Ukrainian Art.
She grew up without a father so her grandfather always taught her to help those in need.
In 2011 she moved to US, Bismarck,ND. She is working cake decorator and part-time at Global Neighbors .She was a new immigrant so understands what people,who have just arrived in the US feel and fear. Infinitely happy that her hobby transfer to her work.
she also loves to bake dessert from Ukraine, Polish or German menu!
Joy is currently an NDSU nursing student in Bismarck, ND, and works part-time as Global Neighbors' Integration Specialist. She is adept at navigating New American families through difficult applications and processes, and does everything with deep respect for families' cultures and stories. She is fluent in Kinyamlunge, Kinyarwanda, English, Swahili, and Kirundi.
Meet Our Executive Board
Kara Lois Sharff
Kara joined the board in 2019. She was raised in North Dakota. She majored in Spanish and Chicano Studies at the University of Minnesota and spent time abroad in Madrid, Spain. In 2000 She studied in River Plate Bible Institute in Buenos Aires, Argentina. After receiving a Bachelor in Theology and in Education she taught biblical classes and also English to Argentinian missionaries going abroad. She has now students that live in all parts of the world. After living in Argentina for 18 years, in October 2018 she moved to North Dakota to continue to work with the Hispanic community and with the New Americans in the Bismarck/Mandan area.
Dr. Karen Hooge Michalka
Karen was born in northeastern North Dakota. She studied sociology at Wheaton College. After graduating, she lived in Zacatecas, Mexico for two years before entering a graduate program in sociology at the University of Notre Dame. Karen's research centered on the ways immigrant churches provide support, direction, and community for new arrivals. After receiving her Ph.D., Karen and her husband Joseph, a computational chemist, moved to Bismarck where she teaches at the University of Mary. Karen has volunteered with Bismarck Global Neighbors as a mentor and in administering and analyzing a needs assessment.
Matthew joined the board in 2019. He is a North Dakota native who was born in France and raised for 12 years in Cameroon. He returned to Cameroon as an adult, where he met and married his wife, Dina. They are currently raising 3 children in Bismarck. He has served as an accountant as Bismarck State College and the Western North Dakota Synod of the ELCA. Matthew previously served as one of Global Neighbors' first mentors, partnering with a French-speaking West African family. He and his family are closely involved with the international community in central ND, and long-time supporters.
Dan joined the board in 2019. He was born and raised in Bismarck. He recently retired from the Bismarck Police Department after a 30-year law enforcement career devoted to Servant Leadership in our wonderful community. One of his favorite opportunities during 5 1/2 years as chief of police was to meet with New Americans at Lutheran Social Services to welcome them, on behalf of the Bismarck Police Department, to their new home and to ease any anxieties they may have regarding law enforcement and their role in our community. After God and family, his passion in life is to love, help and serve others.
Donavon joined the board in 2019. Donavon was born in Bogota, the capital city of Colombia. Shortly after his first birthday he was adopted by a couple in Mandan, North Dakota. After high school, he spent 6 months in an intensive Spanish program in Spain. He enlisted in the United States Air Force and served in Saudi Arabia, North Africa, the Middle East, and Turkey. After an honorable discharge, he enlisted in the Army and served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq and Kuwait. He has also traveled to Russia, Ethiopia, China, Peru, Guatemala, Pakistan, South Korea, Vietnam, Colombia, and Thailand, is fluent in Spanish, and speaks a little Arabic and Turkish. Donavon is a dedicated volunteer with New Americans at the Adult Learning Center, Global Neighbors, and the public.
Thea Ward Jorgensen
Thea is originally from Minot but with her husband Mike, has called Bismarck home for over a decade .She is an award winning fitness professional and owner of Thea Ward Fitness . She works part time as the Member Welcome Coordinator for the National nonprofit Team Red, White and Blue where she connects veteran members to the organization and if needed mental health resources across the country. She also serves in the North Dakota Army National Guard as a Human Resource Specialist. Thea is heavily involved in her community and sits on a number of boards as well as volunteers nationally for a number of non profits. Her true passions are working with veterans, promoting mental health and suicide prevention awareness, and working with refugees. She lives by a personal mission statement of "Impact through action, service and compassion."
She is honored to be apart of this board as she knows personally the struggles of severe depression, anxiety and suicidal ideations and knows the impact fitness and a strong community can have on managing all of those.
In her spare time, Thea enjoys trail running, rucking, volunteering, studying French and positive psychology, and traveling as much as she can. She is an avid Hanson fan, a well versed public speaker, a very proud auntie to Brantley and Bailey and someone who truly believes we can all change the world.
Michael and his wife, Kami, are part of the original founding team of BGN. Michael is a North Dakota native with a heart for the stranger. He is an engineer at Doosan-Bobcat, and is busy with 3 wonderful children.