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We are Proud to Announce the Year 4 Dreamstarters!

3/1/18 under Dreamstarter





10 Native Youth. 10 Big Dreams for Change. $10K Each.

Olympic Legend Billy Mills Names 10 Native Youth to Fourth Cohort of Dreamstarters
Running Strong for American Indian Youth Gives Fourth Round of Awards for Dream Projects in Native Communities

Washington, DC: Today, 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, Running Strong 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 Running Strong.

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 (Sioux) from Pine Ridge, SD and co-founder of Running Strong. “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 are:

  • Kunu Bearchum (Northern Cheyenne), 28, Portland, OR
    Mentor Organization: Wisdom of the Elders, Inc.
  • Lauren Carpenter (Catawba Indian Nation), 17, Rock Hill, SC
    Mentor Organization: Catawba Cultural Preservation Project
  • Michael Charles (Navajo Nation), 23, Columbus, OH
    Mentor Organization: American Indian Science and Engineering Society
  • Easton Chong (Native Hawaiian), 17, Kamuela, HI
    Mentor Organization: Kailapa Community Association
  • Kendrick Eagle (Standing Rock Sioux Tribe), 24, Bismarck, ND
    Mentor Organization: Sacred Pipe Resource Center
  • Kelsey Leonard (Shinnecock Indian Nation), 29, Southampton, NY
    Mentor Organization: Citizens Campaign Fund for the Environment
  • Sunny Nez (Navajo Nation), 18, Shiprock, NM
    Mentor Organization: Capacity Builders, Inc.
  • Lourdes Pedroza-Downey (Round Valley Indian Tribes), 16, Covelo, CA
    Mentor Organization: Round Valley Native American Studies Program
  • Tinisha Rose Quintana (Navajo and Northern Ute), 20, Spanish Fork, UT
    Mentor Organization: Nebo Title VI Indian Education
  • Tara Rouillard (Oglala Lakota), 14, Porcupine, SD
    Mentor Organization: Pine Ridge Girls School

More information about the fourth class of Dreamstarters and their projects is available at

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’s 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

On October 14, 1964, Billy Mills, an Oglala Lakota (Sioux) runner, won the 10,000 meter race at the Tokyo Olympics in an upset, come-from-behind victory that ever since has been an inspiration to Native youth and all Americans. 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 Dreamstarter program on the 50th anniversary of his gold medal win, which has been repeatedly called the greatest race in Olympic running history.

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.

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