Candid Conversations with Rashell Sugiyama


Candid Conversations gives us the opportunity to hear the stories, life, and work of BIPOC people living in Rochester MN. We invite you to read to learn, seek to understand, and thoughtfully engage.

Were you born in Rochester? If not, how long have you lived here?  What brought you to the city?

I was not born in Rochester, I’m originally from a medium sized town in Idaho. Three years ago I moved here for work. 

Tell us about your family. 

Rashell and family
Rashell and Alii
rashell and mom
Rashell and Juni

Rashell with family / Photos courtesy of Rashell Sugiyama

I’m the oldest of three sisters. My mother is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe in Fort Hall, Idaho. My father is from the country, Palau. It’s a pacific island near Micronesia, Guam, and the Philippines. My parents met while my dad was attending Idaho State University.

I don’t have any family ties to the Midwest, it’s just me, my partner Alii, and our Jack-Russell terrier mix, Juni. 

What are the three words that best describe you? 

Rashell Kayaking / Photo courtesy of Rashell Sugiyama

Curious, friendly, and nerdy lol

Do you work outside of the home?  If so, what do you do? 

I work full time as a registered nurse.

If you could take a week off from your regular life to immerse yourself in learning something, what would it be?

Rashell painting with watercolors / Photo courtesy of Rashell Sugiyama

I just came back from a week-long staycation—I decided to spend it getting to know myself with a 3 day silent retreat that I did right at home in my living room. I meditated, did yoga, and kept ear plugs in during the majority of the time. It made me feel like I was worlds away, even just while walking my dog around the block. 

I didn’t really have hobbies growing up, so right now I’m trying out all kinds of things to see what I like. Lately I’ve been into various forms of art including—painting, literature, and film so I also spent the week doing those activities.

If you could go back in time ten years and tell yourself something, what would you say?

Hahaha, my expectations were pretty low then. College seemed so out of reach financially, I really didn’t expect much. I would say, “You’ve got a great support system around you, don’t be afraid to ask for help, you know what you want, trust yourself, trust the process, listen to your heart and you’ll never go wrong.” Oh and to go see Linkin Park live because I meant to but never did. 

How did you end up making college work out?

Growing up, whenever anyone talked about college, I kept hearing common things over and over, like how expensive it is, and how people were stuck with thousands of dollars or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans. I knew my parents didn’t have that kind of money and I thought only “gifted and talented” students and athletes qualified for scholarships. I was neither, so I wrote off ever attending college back in my freshman year of highschool (and probably earlier than that). Fast forward to the time when I was about 20 years old, a close aunt told me her experience of how she got through college and obtained her master’s degree. After that student loans were less intimidating and felt comfortable in my decision to stick with only unsubsidized student loans. 

What does #rochmn need to work on the most?

Rashell with her bike at sunset at Cascade Lake Park / Photo courtesy of Rashell Sugiyama

I would like to see more focus on building communities through affordable housing, public transit that runs when I get off work at 11pm, and bicycle infrastructure. I also love a good neighborhood mom & pop store where regulars and the cashiers are on a first name basis. Oh and community gardens with on-site water! I tried one summer of 2020 but without a car, “bringing my own water” made that resource inaccessible. 

I’m also surprised an 8am-10am Happy Hour isn’t more of a thing for the Night Shift crowd. 

What has required the most courage of you in your life so far?

The affording to eat and pay rent while going to college was tough. I had a supportive partner, but I imagine it’s so much harder if you’re going through it alone. 

What’s the most spontaneous thing you’ve done in your life?

I feel like I’m a fairly spontaneous person so it’s hard to think of one that stands out. Deciding to cut 20 inches from my hair was a spontaneous decision and then I donated it. 

What’s a charity or cause you support?

The Landing. 

Save the Rookery

The Jeremiah Project

Where do you most want to visit in the world?

Ever since I saw the movie Rio (2011) I’ve wanted to visit Carnival in Río de Janeiro. I’d love to go just to witness the rich cultural celebration, especially the colorful regalia, the dances, and the parade.

What is one sentence you would use to describe living as a BIPOC person in #rochmn?

Doable but not without its challenges. 

What is your favorite meal to cook?

Lately I’ve been loving the simplicity of soup chock full of veggies. Usually eaten over rice. Yum. 

What is your favorite place to go out for a meal or get takeout in Rochester? What do you order?

Mi Pueblo in Broadway and 7th St NE. I get lengua tacos and corn every time. Plus they’re open till midnight! Any of the ready-to-eat options at the People’s Food Co-op is also good, I especially love their baked goods and Moroccan Couscous. 

What brings you the most joy?

Rashell backpacking with Juni / Photo courtesy of Rashell Sugiyama

Anything to do with nature relaxes me and brings me peace. I love that there’s a park within walking distance of almost anywhere here in Rochester. 

What is your favorite way to unwind and relax?

I like to listen to a podcast and take Juni for a walk or read a book and have a nice cup of tea. Sometimes I’ll read a piece of long form writing, but I really enjoy a short story that I can start and finish in one sitting. 


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Erica was raised in Stillwater, MN and never thought she would leave the Twin Cities area. However, this extroverted librarian was on the hunt for a new challenge. At the end of 2018, she convinced her high school sweetheart, their two-year old son Milo, and their three cats to move to Rochester. She has been having a wonderful time exploring the area and later sharing her treasured finds with loved ones. In her spare time, Erica is constantly binging audiobooks and podcasts, wrangling her toddler, working on sassy embroidery and trying out new recipes (but dreads the clean-up). She has decided her new life’s goal is to convince friends and family, one by one, to move to the charming city of Rochester. Follow Erica on Instagram @ericarossmn


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