Diversity on the Plains: breaking barriers

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BISMARCK, N.D. - North Dakota's population is increasing. The fastest growing segment by far is Hispanic.

Learning a second language can be a challenge for anyone.

But, for Hispanics seeking the American Dream in North Dakota it's a necessity.

Father Russ Kovash says six years ago St. Joseph's began having a Spanish mass when the parish saw a shift in diversity.

At first 20 to 30 people would attend.

Today, six times as many come.

"There's no doubt there's been a dramatic increase in the amount of Hispanics that have come to Williston and not just to Williston, to really Western North Dakota," said Kovash.

Parishioner Claudia Ortiz brought her children to the state after her husband found work in the Bakken.

"And after two years I decided to make a move here to Williston, because he was away from the family," said Ortiz.

Her and her family are devoted to attending the Spanish mass.

"It just brings us closer. It brings us home in a way." said Sonia Monreal.

Monreal says the language barrier was preventing many Hispanics from attending.

"I grew up just strictly Spanish mass. But my mom doesn't speak much English or understand it. So, I could do fine in an English mass but my mom wouldn't," said Monreal.

Mass isn't the only place where speech obstacles are being broken.

"When folks come in if they don't speak English well and they don't have someone with them, google translate is our friend," said Job Service North Dakota Williston Manager Paula Hickel.

Another friend is Nora Reyes who volunteers her time to help anyone who needs a translator.

"I like to be there in the moments that they do not understand any English," said Reyes.

Job applications, medical appointments or legal advice, Reyes comes to the rescue.

"Toda esa gente que viene con ella no tienen apoyo. Si no estuviera ella aqui, quien le iba dar apoyo??" dijo Silvia Rodriguez. "Everyone that comes to her doesn't have support. And if she wasn't here, then who would provide it? said Silvia Rodriguez.

Sisters Brenda, Rosa, Azucena brought a similar support during the four years they served as missionaries.

A community breaking barriers and bridging a language gap.

In our final segment of Diversity on the Plains we'll show you how harmony is being created between populations that have roots thousands of miles apart.