Dreamstarter Jacquelyn Nielsen reflects on her Dreamstarter project

When I reflect on the past year of my grant I am in awe. I have been challenged mentally, physically, and spiritually in the journey to fulfill my Dreamstarter project. The opportunity provided to me by Running Strong has definitely supported my own personal growth and and has shown me what I am capable of achieving. Through the challenges and successes, this grant has brought me the opportunity to achieve my dream of teaching and mentoring native youth in need.

Through my Dreamstarter project I was able to mentor Native youth and help motivate youth that are struggling in school. I was able to put on a science camp that not only helped go toward a high school science credit but also network the youth with internships in the Portland Metro area. I was blessed with the opportunity to develop a close relationship with a couple youth. I will share two of the girls’ stories.

Zoey, a 14-year-old girl, connected with me at the start of camp. I was drawn to her determination and her enthusiastic personality. We shared personal stories and at times I felt the need to share my story and how I was determined to make it in this world, having gone through hardships in my life. I soon discovered that she had faced similar challenges and that she was looking for a purpose. Throughout the entire camp she became very interested in the herbology aspect of the camp. We were able to put her in contact with an organization that was sending out internship flyers for 2016. Zoey got in touch with the internship coordinators and is now interning for the organization. She is still enthusiastic and has found a way to explore her passion. I am so grateful to be able to develop this close relationship.

Another relationship I would like to share is about Irena; a 15-year-old girl, I was able to develop a close relationship with. The first day meeting Irena, I was determined to get to know her. Just like Zoey she was very passionate. But, her story was different. (I asked for permission to share her story and the impact these camps made on her.) She had shared with me at the end of this camp that she was contemplating on ending her life. Her mother had forced her to go for the first two days. Irena had told me about how she felt like she didn’t fit in the world and that she felt like she didn’t have a purpose. She told me how she didn’t want to go to school anymore and she wanted to drop out of high school. But, I shared with her my experience and how I graduated early from high school because I felt stuck in world where I could no longer breathe. I told her how I homeschooled myself and went to college at 16 years old. From sharing these stories with her something clicked. Irena no longer felt like she had no options. She developed friendships with the other youth at the camp. She discovered a passion for video production (which the camp offered as well). I saw a shift in this young woman that made a lasting impact on me. It was a reminder that even if you feel like you’re at your breaking point, it means something good is coming your way. I recently was invited to see her graduate this year. She was able to graduate early and she plans on going to Washington State University.

Through this grant, I was able to make long lasting friendships with not only Mentee’s from my camps but also other Running Strong Dreamstarters. I have developed relationships that I would have never imagined. This grant has put the most amazing people in my life. It has created a family and I’m forever grateful for this grant and the opportunities it has presented to me.

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