Earlier this month, Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills named the fourth annual class of American Indian youth to receive $10,000 Dreamstarter grants for projects that help their communities and bring their dreams to life.
Each year since 2015, the Running Strong for American Indian Youth organization has chosen ten American Indian youth ages 14 – 30 to receive Dreamstarter grants. Each Dreamstarter will work together with a community nonprofit on project around the theme of Science and the Environment, and will receive mentorship, training and support from the Running Strong organization.
Mills announced the names of this year’s Dreamstarters on Facebook Live.
“Each year, our Dreamstarters inspire me with their incredible talent and limitless passion,” said Mills, who is Oglala Lakota from Pine Ridge, South Dakota, and co-founder of Running Strong during the announcement.
“This class represents the next generation of Native scientists, environmentalists, and water protectors. I believe in them, in their dreams, and in the future they are building for all of us.”
The 2018 – 2019 Dreamstarters as announced by Mills are as follows:
Kunu Bearchum (Northern Cheyenne), 28, Portland, Oregon
Mentor Organization: Wisdom of the Elders, Inc.
Lauren Carpenter (Catawba Indian Nation), 17, Rock Hill, South Carolina
Mentor Organization: Catawba Cultural Preservation Project
Michael Charles (Navajo), 23, Columbus, Ohio
Mentor Organization: American Indian Science and Engineering Society
Easton Chong (Native Hawaiian), 17, Kamuela, Hawaii
Mentor Organization: Kailapa Community Association
Kendrick Eagle (Standing Rock Sioux Tribe), 24, Bismarck, North Dakota
Mentor Organization: Sacred Pipe Resource Center
Kelsey Leonard (Shinnecock Indian Nation), 29, Southampton, New York
Mentor Organization: Citizens Campaign Fund for the Environment
Sunny Nez (Navajo), 18, Shiprock, New Mexico
Mentor Organization: Capacity Builders, Inc.
Lourdes Pedroza-Downey (Round Valley Indian Tribes), 16, Covelo, California
Mentor Organization: Round Valley Native American Studies Program
Tinisha Rose Quintana (Navajo and Northern Ute), 20, Spanish Fork, Utah
Mentor Organization: Nebo Title VI Indian Education
Tara Rouillard (Oglala Lakota), 14, Porcupine, South Dakota
Mentor Organization: Pine Ridge Girls School
Running Strong will give away a total of fifty $10,000 Dreamstarter grants over five years to support Native youth’s dreams for their communities. This announcement makes a total of forty Dreamstarters selected so far. The project was announced in October 14, 2014, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Billy Mills’ gold medal win at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
Last year, Mills and Running Strong started a companion project, Dreamstarter Teacher, which awards $500 – $1000 grants to teachers to support the educational needs of Native students. Running Strong has named a total of 46 educators serving students from dozens of tribal nations in 12 states.
Applications are now open for the next class of Dreamstarter Teachers. More information about the program and recipients can be found at http://indianyouth.org/dreamstarterteacher.
Billy Mills won the 10,000 meter race at the Tokyo Olympics in October 14, 1964. The upset, a come-from-behind victory, that ever since has been an inspiration around the world. He is still the only person from the Western hemisphere ever to win that event. He co-founded Running Strong for American Indian Youth in 1986 to help others live their dreams.
Mills announced the first class of 10 Dreamstarter grantees around the theme of “wellness” in 2015, the second class around the theme of “arts and culture” in 2016, and the third class around the theme of “education” last year.
Projects have included a mentorship program for young Native dental students, wheelchair basketball camps for Native youth with disabilities, cooperative business development for Native artists, and reviving traditional Hawaiian canoe craft.
Co-founded by Mills in 1986, Running Strong for American Indian Youth partners with Native communities all over the country to create healthier, happier, and more hopeful futures for American Indian youth. The Dreamstarter program helps Native youth believe in the power of their dreams to build strong futures for themselves and their communities.
Additional information about the program can be found at www.IndianYouth.org/Dreamstarter. More information about the fourth class of Dreamstarters and their projects is available at http://indianyouth.org/2018Dreamstarters.
Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor and senior correspondent, Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter Follow @VinceSchilling