2019 Dreamstarter Hope Gamble

2019 Dreamstarter Hope Gamble may just be 14-years-old, but already she is realizing her dream H.O.P.E. (Heroes Of Positive Endurance) by developing new Navajo creation stories in the form of comic srtips.

Hope, Diné, lives on the Navajo Nation in the small community of Nazlini, where she is not only creating versions of these stories that address struggles currently facing children in her community, but also offering workshops for her peers, inspiring them to explore their culture through art.

“When we moved back to the Rez, I learned a lot more about my Navajo culture,” Hope told us. “I want to make comics about creation stories and make new stories using my talent of drawing…I think kids would be interested in my comic books because they are a very different style than the way creation stories are usually presented to them.”

 Hope recently spoke about her dream becoming a reality in a video interview.

“Hello, my name is Hope Gamble and my dream is to make a comic book about the Navajo story,” says Hope. “I’ve always wanted to make a comic book about something that could help benefit my culture.”

And Hope’s dream began in earnest on the day she learned that she had been selected as a Running Strong for American Indian Youth® Dreamstarter.

“It really shocked me,” she says. “Then I wondered, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’”

In the interview, Hope is open and candid about the struggles she faced in school which she overcame by using her art as a coping mechanism.

In her workshops with younger children, Hope explains the challenges she surmounted in a way they can understand, while with the older children she is able to talk about feelings they may be experiencing themselves.

“The little kids in the workshops understand that I was sad, but that I used art to help me get through it,” she says. “Big kids understood more because I used words like ‘depression’ and ‘suicide.’”

For Hope the “awesome” part of organizing and hosting these workshops is when participants show her the artwork they have created, “and it’s related to what I’ve been talking about, such as having pride.”

Even at her young age, Hope was instilled with an entrepreneurial spirit making and selling jewelry, and doing commissioned drawings, but writing, drawing, publishing and selling her own comic books is where her passion lies.

“I think that creating something (comics) to put on newspaper stands for the local kids will be highly successful and entrepreneurial in spirit,” she told us. “My venture (selling comic books) is not a new idea. However, my content (blending creation stories with challenges faced by kids today) is something that is very new and appealing to the community.”

And when asked what has been the most unexpected thing for her since becoming a Running Strong Dreamstarter, she replied, “Everything. I never even expected to be doing workshops.”

2019 Dreamstarter Joshua Smith

In July, Joshua Smith (Osage) updated us on the progress of his dream to open a Native-owned, socially-conscious coffee roasting company: Ekowah Coffee.

“From the moment of initial inspiration for Ekowah Coffee to now, just days before our website launch, this dream has seemed to have a life of its own,” he reported in a July 22 blog. “As much as I love coffee – and I do, seriously love coffee – my true passion for this project is the opportunity to build a business that will benefit my people.”

Joshua says that he feels every step of the way has been blessed from making a chance connection with the perfect source for his coffee beans, to securing the ideal roasting setup, “to receiving the amazing support of the Running Strong Dreamstarter Grant.”

Joshua notes the word “Ekowah” is Osage for friend, “a simple word that holds so much significance to my dream.”

Available now on his website is his signature roast, Tinker Camp, described as “the kind of coffee you incorporate into your morning routine, take with you camping, and serve your friends after dinner…with luxuriously smooth milk chocolate and notes of dried fruit, sure to please any who love the classics.”

2018 Dreamstarter Lauren Carpenter

Lauren Carpenter applied to become a 2018 Running Strong for American Indian Youth® Dreamstarter with a dream of encouraging traditional gardening practices. By creating an outdoor nature classroom at the Catawba Cultural Preservation Center in Rock Hill, South Carolina, Lauren was able to share the cultural importance and uses of indigenous crops.

Lauren realized her dream to “revitalize a variety of indigenous plants to my community and educate tribal members on the traditional medicinal and nutritional value of these plants” which “significantly bettered the visual appearance of the existing gardens.” Lauren also opened a seed library for the community to have access to their own plants and educational materials.

In addition, as she reported this month, Lauren established a learning garden for at-risk youth programs located on the reservation and constructed a community garden in one of the neighborhoods on the reservation.

“The children were eager to help me throughout my entire project by participating in activities and helping keep the gardens clean and healthy,” she reported.

She also began a gardening club at the Catawba Cultural Preservation Project’s Camp Kic-A-Wah, a summer and afterschool program for tribal youth, in which children were able to learn about and take care of plants.

Lauren credited her mentor, Roo George-Warren, a 2017 Dreamstarter, for helping her to efficiently and responsibly use her resources to complete all of her goals.

“Many community members have utilized the resources provided by the newly-established seed library to begin planting their own personal gardens,” she noted.

Lauren acknowledged the challenges she faced as a recent high school graduate working full time to prepare herself for college, but she was able to overcome these challenges to realize her dream.

“Before my project, many tribal youth were unaware of the types of plants that the Catawba people used as part of their everyday lives and lacked an interest in the importance of protecting and taking care of the environment,” she reported.

“As a counselor at the summer program at Camp Kic-A-Wah, I was able to show these children the importance of these topics which ignited a significant amount of curiosity and eagerness to learn more.

“My hope is that they continue to implement the knowledge of these traditional plants into their lives in order to promote a healthy and culturally-aware lifestyle.”

2017 Brian Sherman

2017 Dreamstarter Brian Sherman (Oglala Lakota) applied to Running Strong for American Indian Youth® for a $10,000 Dreamstarter grant to realize his dream of teaching community dance lessons to youth on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

“Dancing really saved me growing up and I see so many kids who need something to turn to, and I want to give that to them,” he told us as he embarked on his Dreamstarter journey. “Dance is a beautiful outlet…It’s a way to bring back our culture – to bring back the hope we had.”

Throughout his project, Brian taught young people about the importance of dance to their culture, and also about life skills and suicide prevention on the reservation.

Two years later, we were thrilled to recently receive an update from Brian as he continues on his journey of discovery.

“I went into this with a wild dream of dancing,” he told us earlier this month. “I had no idea I’d become a motivational speaker as well as a role model to the community I am from.

“Thank you for giving me a reason to push forward,” he told us earlier this month. “I am proud to carry this experience with me for the rest of my journey.”

Brian also had some motivational words for his fellow Native American youth:

“Continue to follow your dreams. You will see many doubts and dead ends.

“But I have accomplished it, and so can you.”

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