Olympian Billy Mills Names First-Ever “Dreamstarter” Grantees

Today, Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills announced the first class of American Indian youth to receive $10,000 Dreamstarter grants for projects that help them bring their dreams to life. Each of the ten Dreamstarter recipients, who are all American Indian youth under age 30, will work together with a community nonprofit on a project to increase wellness supported by Running Strong for American Indian Youth®.

“I’m so inspired by our first class of Dreamstarters,” said Mills. “The Dreamstarter program is one more step towards overcoming the poverty of dreams among so many Native young people. The Dreamstarters come from communities and tribes all over the country. They are bound together by the idea that, despite the challenges, their dreams can guide them to build a strong future for themselves and for their communities. I look forward to working with each Dreamstarter over the next year, to helping them grow into leaders, and to watching their dreams come to life.”

The 2015 – 2016 Dreamstarters are:

  • Nathaniel Christianson (White Earth Chippewa), 16, Callaway, MN
    Mentor Organization: White Earth Land Recovery Project
  • Ronnie Godfrey (Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux), 14, Summit, SD
    Mentor Organization: Summit School District 54-6
  • Cristin Haase (Cheyenne River Sioux), 24, Gilbert, AZ
    Mentor Organization: A.T. Still University of Health Sciences
  • Noah Blue Elk Hotchkiss (Southern Ute/Southern Cheyenne/Caddo), 16, Durango, CO
    Mentor Organization: Disabled Sports USA – Adaptive Sports Association
  • Rashaun Nez (Navajo), 20, Lower Fruitland, NM
    Mentor Organization: Capacity Builders, Inc.
  • Jacquelyn Nielsen (Shoshone), 17, Vancouver, WA
    Mentor Organization: Wisdom of the Elders, Inc.
  • James Pine (Oglala Lakota), 23, Rapid City, SD
    Mentor Organization: The Earth Circle Foundation
  • Breanna Potter (Cherokee), 20, Salisaw, OK
    Mentor Organization: Brushy Cherokee Action Association
  • Darius Sparks (Standing Rock Sioux), 19, Bismarck, ND
    Mentor Organization: Sacred Pipe Resource Center
  • Samantha Yellow Fat (Standing Rock Sioux), 25, Bismarck, ND
    Mentor Organization: Youthworks

Running Strong will give away fifty $10,000 Dreamstarter grants over the next five years to support Native youth’s dreams for their communities. At the end of the grant period, Running Strong will choose five projects to be eligible for an additional $50,000 grant. Each year, grants are awarded to projects around a unifying theme. The 2015-2016 theme is wellness.

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.

Running Strong for American Indian Youth supports Native-led programs to help American Indian youth address their basic survival needs. This includes the need to believe in the power of their dreams and to build a strong future for themselves and their communities.

For more information about this year’s Dreamstarters, or to find out how to help jumpstart dreams for Native youth, please visit http://indianyouth.org/2015Dreamstarters .

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