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Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills has just announced the second class of American Indian youth to receive $10,000 Dreamstarter grants.

Billy Mills Gives $10K Dreamstarter Awards to 10 Young Native Artists and Cultural Leaders

Vincent Schilling

Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills has just announced the second class of American Indian youth to receive $10,000 Dreamstarter grants for projects that help them bring their dreams to life. Each of the 10 Dreamstarter recipients, all American Indian youth under 30, will work with a community nonprofit on an arts or cultural project supported by Running Strong for American Indian Youth.

“I am amazed and humbled by our incredibly accomplished class of young artists and cultural leaders,” said Mills, who grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. “My Native culture gave me the courage and strength of spirit to dream my Olympic dream. Native art and culture is vital to vibrant, rich, thriving Native communities.

Running Strong for American Indian Youth® believes in the dreams of American Indian youth: dreams of creating a stronger community, of overcoming poverty, and of building a better tomorrow for themselves and their families.

“The Dreamstarters from our first class are already seeing their dreams come to life. I can’t wait to see what our second class will achieve,” said Mills.

Running Strong will give away a total of 50 $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 2016-2017 theme is arts and culture.

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 a strong future for themselves and their communities.

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 last year. Projects include grief support groups to a mentorship program for young Native dental students to a wheelchair basketball camp for Native youth with disabilities.

The 2016 – 2017 Dreamstarters are:

Rosalia Badhorse (Northern Cheyenne), 22, Lame Deer, MT

Mentor Organization: The Bridge Foundation


Blaze Burrows (Round Valley), 16, Covelo, CA

Mentor Organization: Round Valley High School Native American Studies


Annie Chasing Hawk (Cheyenne River Sioux), 28, Eagle Butte, SD

Mentor Organization: The Keya Foundation


Jeremy Dennis (Shinnecock & Hassanamisco Nipmuc), 25, Southampton, NY

Mentor Organization: The Pennsylvania State University


JoRee LaFrance (Crow), 20, Crow Agency, MT

Mentor Organization: Trustees of Dartmouth College


Robert McRorie (Ojibwe), 27, Sault Ste Marie, MI

Mentor Organization: Malcolm High School


Charmayne Sandoval (Diné), 27, Flagstaff, AZ,

Mentor Organization: Native Americans For Community Action, Inc.


Jenna Smith (Osage), 20, Skiatook, OK

Mentor Organization: Brushy Cherokee Action Association


Kelsey Tortalita (Standing Rock Sioux), 20, Mandan, ND

Mentor Organization: Sacred Pipe Resource Center


Ruben Zendejas (Omaha Tribe of Nebraska), 21, Provo, UT

Mentor Organization: Provo City School District


Additional information about the grant program can be found at

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