On Wednesday March 1st, Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills announced the third class of American Indian youth to receive $10,000 Dreamstarter grants for projects that help their communities and 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 an educational project supported by Running Strong for American Indian Youth.
“The Dreamstarters always touch my soul,” said Billy Mills, who grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. “This year’s group, who are leading educational projects inside and outside the classroom, are incredibly inspiring. They are doing the sacred work of teaching the next generation everything they need for a hopeful future, from practical skills like computer coding to our sacred languages and cultural knowledge.”
“My Olympic gold medal was a dream, and it was a gift to me. I am thrilled to be able to give back more dreams through our Dreamstarter program,” said Billy Mills.
Billy Mills announced the winning applicants on Wednesday via a live video on Facebook.
The 2017 – 2018 Dreamstarters are:
Brian Barlow (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma), 22, Talequah, OK
Mentor Organization: The Cherokee Nation Foundation
Caitlin Bordeaux (Rosebud Sioux), 25, St Francis, SD
Mentor Organization: Sicangu Oyate Ho Inc/ St. Francis Indian School
Shayleena Britton (Round Valley Indian Tribes), 17, Covelo, CA
Mentor Organization: Round Valley Native American Studies Program
Sara Chase (Hoopa Valley Tribe), 24, Albany, CA
Mentor Organization: Hoopa Tribal Education Association
Stephan Cheney (Kul Wicasa Oyate), 26, Blue Lake, CA
Mentor Organization: Native Hope
DeLessein “Roo” George-Warren (Catawba Indian Nation), 25, Rock Hill, SC
Mentor Organization: Catawba Cultural Preservation Project
Kristina Hyatt (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians), 28, Cherokee, NC
Mentor Organization: America's ToothFairy: National Children's Oral Health Foundation
Note: Hyatt is 2015’s Miss Native American USA
Riel LaPlant (Blackfeet), 24, Olympia, WA
Mentor Organization: The Evergreen State College Foundation
Hokani Maria (Native Hawaiian), 14, Kapaau, HI
Mentor Organization: Kohala Unupa'a
Brian Sherman (Oglala Lakota), 20, Pine Ridge, SD
Mentor Organization: Mitakuye Foundation
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. 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 2017-2018 theme is education.
Earlier this month, Mills and Running Strong announced the first-ever class of Dreamstarter Teachers, who will receive $500 - $1000 grants to support the educational needs of Native students. Twenty-four educators were chosen from an outstanding pool of applicants. They serve students from over 35 tribal nations in 10 states. Together with today’s announcement, Running Strong has also opened the application period for the next class of Dreamstarter Teachers. More information about the program and first group of recipients can be found at indianyouth.org/dreamstarterteacher.
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 Dreamstarter grantees around the theme of “wellness” in 2015, and the second class around the theme of “arts and culture” last year. Projects have included a mentorship program for young Native dental students, wheelchair basketball camps for Native youth with disabilities, traditional storytelling events, and cooperative business development for Native artists.
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 grant program can be found at www.IndianYouth.org/Dreamstarter.