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Dreamstarter Program Makes Native Dreams into Realities

So many of the wonderful out of school time programs offered at Clubs are designed to increase self-esteem and help youth aspire to be the best they can be. In addition to the leaders among their peers and the caring, consistent staff at the Club who inspire them, youth benefit from seeing other Native youth make a difference in their communities.

Running Strong for American Indian Youth’s Dreamstarter Program is designed to recognize young leaders and provide them with grants to make their dreams for their community come true. With support from Olympic gold medalist Billy Mays, Dreamstarter identifies youth who are striving to make a difference, pairs them with a non-profit, and awards them the grant funding they need to get their project off the ground. While the application season for Year 2 is now closed, Running Strong will continue to provide ten $10,000 grants each year to community non-profits who will mentor a young Dreamstarter and work with them to implement a project inspired by the young person’s dream for her or his community.

The first class of Dreamstarters included a disabled teen who initiated wheelchair basketball camps, and a student who formed a “Dream Team” to educate youth about diabetes prevention, among others. This year’s class focused on the “Arts and Culture” theme, and includes Rosalia Badhorse (Northern Cheyenne), who plans to inspire youth in her community to preserve their culture through powwow dancing and regalia. She will teach dancing, beadwork, and stories in her rural community to give all of her peers a chance to learn about their culture. Another 2016 Dreamstarter, Blaze Burrows (Round Valley Indian Tribes) will revive a traditional boy’s stick game called Kyin-naal-del’ to foster cultural awareness, teach the Native language, and be a positive outlet for boys in his community. Additional recipients are creating artisan collectives, using photography to document sacred sites, teaching cultural programs for academic credit, and raising mental health awareness through art.

To read more about this year’s Dreamstarter class and share their stories with your Club youth, visit the Dreamstarter Grant Program webpage. It is never too early to start encouraging your youth to think about their own dreams so they are ready to apply to the 2017 competition on the “Education” theme! The application period typically opens in October.