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24 Midwestern leaders get prestigious Bush Fellowships for 2017

The new crop of  24 Bush Fellows announced this week each will receive up to $100,000 to improve their leadership abilities with further education and experiences. 

They'll then use those new skills to give back to their communities in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota or the 23 Native nations in the region.

Among the 2017 class of Fellows are immigrants from Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti and Burma. Several North Minneapolis residents are also in the mix.

The Fellows were selected from nearly 650 applicants who laid out their visions for leadership and how they would use a Bush Fellowship to improve their communities.

The Bush organization says that more than 2,000 people have gone through the Fellow process since 1965, including Oglala Lakota painter and educator Arthur Douglas Amiotte, internationally known artist Judith Onofrio and former Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson.

The announcement of the fellowships each year often spurs interest from others in applying for next year's group. Applications, the organization says, are open to anyone "24 years and older who lives in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota or the 23 Native nations that share the same geography." Next year's applications will be accepted starting Aug. 15. More information is on the Bush Foundation site.

This year's Fellows, with bios/project goal language supplied by the Bush Foundation, are:

Abdirashid Abdi
Columbia Heights, MN — Abdirashid Abdi envisions classrooms where the cultural values of English Language Learners are seen as an asset for learning, not a deficit. He seeks to improve academic performance by helping teachers better understand how a student’s cultural background shapes learning style. He wants to develop his leadership skills to coach K-12 educators and provide them with tools to transform the classroom experience for ELL students. He will use his Bush Fellowship to pursue a doctoral degree in curriculum and instruction to enhance his leadership and expertise in the education arena. He also will conduct formal field research to impact teacher training.

Mohamed Ahmed
Photo by Julius Kintu
Mohamed Ahmed

Mohamed Ahmed
Minneapolis, MN — Mohamed Ahmed uses popular culture to promote peace, democracy and anti-extremism with youth. Through his organization, Average Mohamed, he speaks to thousands of youth and creates safe, healthy spaces for difficult conversations. He also consults with the Department of Homeland Security, Attorney General’s Office and State Department. Now, he wants to develop his personal leadership abilities to help others carry the messages of Average Mohamed to a wider audience. With his Bush Fellowship, he will finish his bachelor’s degree in communication studies, seek mentorship from other successful anti-extremism programs across the country and build his leadership skills through formal communications training.

Dara Beevas
Minneapolis, MN — Dara Beevas believes that books can save lives, open doors and build bridges, especially in communities of color. As co-founder of the publishing company Wise Ink, she encourages authors to share powerful stories that ignite change, tolerance and growth. She believes that leadership comes down to a single virtue: courage. With her Bush Fellowship, she will grow her abilities to be a bolder, braver and more balanced leader. She will seek mentors who have demonstrated courage in their work and invest in training through the Center for Courage and Renewal, Yale Women’s LeadershipmProgram and Women’s Leadership Retreat in Uganda.

Melissa Boyd
Mille Lacs Indian Reservation (Ojibwe) — Melissa Boyd wants to help lead the movement to re-stabilize and renew the Ojibwe language in the homelands of her people, starting in the classrooms of youngest learners. Her goal is to create Ojibwe schools recognized for both cultural and academic excellence. She will explore how to replicate in her community the ways the Hawaiian nation created nearly 20,000 proficient indigenous speakers. To master her craft and advance her leadership skills, she will use her Bush Fellowship to finish her bachelor degree in elementary education, complete a certificate of contemporary indigenous multilingualism at the University of Hawaii and study behavior design through Stanford School of Medicine and the engagedIN behavior design firm.

D.A. Bullock
Photo by Julius Kintu
D.A. Bullock

D.A. Bullock
Minneapolis, MN — D.A. Bullock is a community organizer who uses art to supplant narratives of hopelessness with ones that promote and inspire collective understanding. He wants to foster a radical reimagining of north Minneapolis that impacts how long-standing community issues are addressed. He seeks to develop new social art and engagement practices to affect public policy change in the areas of criminal justice, economic development and social and racial justice. With his Bush Fellowship, he will lay the groundwork and prepare to study at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago.

Kristin DeArruda Wharton
Grand Marais, MN — Kristin Wharton wants to redefine the rural health care model. She seeks to combine expanded opportunities for nurse practitioners to provide whole-person care with a focus on social and community factors that influence well-being. She believes this holistic model could deliver solutions to rural areas that struggle to maintain strong local health care systems. With her Bush Fellowship, she will pursue education as an integrative nurse practitioner and study successful rural models that bridge the divide between health care and community sources of health and vitality. She also will expand her network of health, policy and community mentors to increase her reach and effectiveness as a rural health advocate.

Hsajune Dyan
Photo by Julius Kintu
Hsajune Dyan

Hsajune Dyan
Saint Paul, MN — Hsajune Dyan often reminds himself and his students that a thousand miles begins with a single step. A Burmese refugee, he has embraced determination and persistency in his own life and work with Saint Paul Public Schools. He is a passionate advocate for English Language Learners, serving as a bridge between newcomers and the school system. He is equally passionate about the success of his small but growing Karen community in Minnesota. With his Bush Fellowship, he will strengthen his leadership and planning skills and enhance his network to better help immigrants and refugees become well-educated, prosperous members of their new community. He will pursue an Ed.D. in education leadership at Bethel University.

Gene Gelgelu
Photo by Julius Kintu
Gene Gelgelu

Gene Gelgelu
Saint Paul, MN — Gene Gelgelu envisions a Minnesota where African immigrants play a major role in the economy. He wants African immigrants to build wealth and sustainability as they become more deeply engaged in the region. An immigrant from Ethiopia, he understands the challenges of and opportunities for building full economic participation in a new country. Under his leadership, African Economic Development Solutions has incubated numerous culturally specific businesses and launched Little Africa, a creative placemaking effort in the heart of Saint Paul. With his Bush Fellowship, he will broaden his knowledge of regional economic policy, build a local and national network to lead more effectively and contribute to solving racial disparities in Minnesota.

Scott Glew
Elk River, MN — Scott Glew is convinced that the health of our communities depends on how well we prepare the next generation for civic life. He enlisted in the Army National Guard shortly after 9/11 and was later deployed to Iraq, where he directly felt the human impact of war.​ Today, as a teacher he finds that most American children are disconnected from the realities of global conflicts, which take place thousands of miles away and involve only a small percentage of the U.S. population. He is passionate about moving social studies education to the forefront of student learning. With his Bush Fellowship, he will earn a Ph.D. to build the knowledge he needs to influence a systemic change in education. He also will pursue opportunities to further understand how to build and maintain peaceful, democratic societies.

Brenda Hartman
Falcon Heights, MN —Brenda Hartman has lived nearly three decades longer than expected after receiving a stage 4 cancer diagnosis. Over those years, she has devoted herself to addressing the social, emotional and spiritual aspects of the cancer experience. She sees a strong need to promote a cultural shift in society’s response to death. She wants to introduce a narrative that counters fear and denial with a view of death as a healing process. She seeks new ways to incorporate end-of- life planning into training for healthcare professionals. With her Bush Fellowship, she will study end-of- life practices from different cultures, religions and spiritual traditions and grow her leadership skills through coursework and consultation.

Ahmed Hassan
Saint Paul, MN — Ahmed Hassan wants to create a model of mental health delivery that is more compatible with the cultural beliefs, attitudes and needs of immigrants and refugees. As a refugee from Djibouti, he understands that many people in his community come to the U.S. with trauma and need mental health services. However, he also observes that many immigrants and refugees do not understand Western concepts and delivery methods and therefore do not access services. He will use his Bush Fellowship to expand his expertise in the field of psychology to better link cultural beliefs and stories with modern mental health practices. He also will grow his communication skills and develop a stronger professional network.

Neil Linscheid
Clarkfield, MN —Neil Linscheid wants to start a national conversation about how to design a better, more human-centered approach to the work of community development. In his role with University of Minnesota Extension, he sees committed people struggle with solving difficult community challenges. He wants to bring together the fields of community development and human ergonomics to improve the way these workers are trained, supported and equipped. With his Bush Fellowship, he will compete a PhD in human factor and ergonomics, apply his newly acquired knowledge to community development and increase his strategic communication skills to share the need for and impact of his work.

Shelley Madore
Photo by Julius Kintu
Shelley Madore

Shelley Madore
Hopkins, MN — Shelley Madore wants people with disabilities to live a life of self-determination. Her goal is to develop resources for parents and teacher to help students gain important life skills by the time they graduate. As a mother of two children with special needs and a former state legislator, she has developed programs and advocated for policy to expand opportunities for youth transitioning into adulthood. Now, with her Bush Fellowship, she will build her credentials for leading systemic change by completing a bachelor degree in disabilities studies at City of New York School of Professional Studies and by expanding her network of peers in disability advocacy.

Corey Martin
Buffalo, MN — Corey Martin is driven to build resiliency, vulnerability and compassion into healthcare systems, schools, police departments, businesses and homes. He is a physician whose journey of self-reflection and growth led him to found the Bounce Back Project, a community initiative to promote health through happiness. He also is lead physician in Allina Health’s response to clinician burnout. He wants to incorporate positivity and resilience practices into his local health care system and improve mental health throughout his community. He will use his Bush Fellowship to pursue advanced leadership training, build his own mindfulness practice and become a certified facilitator in The Daring Way and Center for Courage and Renewal.

Alice Musumba
Bismarck, ND — Alice Musumba is passionate about helping immigrants thrive in Bismarck. She sees the positive impact they have on the wider community when they share their unique cultural identities and experiences. She wants to organize her fellow Kenyans in the Bismarck-Mandan area into a tight-knit community that provides the support that all newly arriving immigrants need to succeed. With her Bush Fellowship, she will study immigrant communities across the country, tap into their most successful practices for integrating new populations and apply those lessons in the Bismarck area. She also will pursue a doctor of public health degree to increase her knowledge of practical public health approaches and solutions for immigrants.

Emmanuel Oppong
Photo by Julius Kintu
Emmanuel Oppong

Emmanuel Oppong
Saint Cloud, MN — Emmanuel Oppong knows that the words “mental health” are not found in many cultures, including that of his native Ghana. Yet as a counselor working with immigrants and refugees, he understands that many of these newly arrived people need support to deal with trauma and culture shock. He wants to build cultural sensitivity into and increased access to mental health services in Minnesota. In his dual role as Community Engagement Coordinator in the Mayor of Saint Cloud’s office, he also seeks to improve race relations in a city growing in diversity. With his Bush Fellowship, he will pursue learning and networking opportunities with experts in the fields of diversity, inclusion and trauma-informed therapy.

Marcus Owens
Photo by Julius Kintu
Marcus Owens

Marcus Owens
Minneapolis, MN — Marcus Owens is a fourth-generation North Minneapolis resident who is deeply invested in the health of his community. A corporate-turned-nonprofit leader, he employs research, data and anecdotal information to understand the root causes of problems. He wants to study communities with proven records of improving quality of life and bring innovative ideas about successful community development back to the north side of Minneapolis. With his Bush Fellowship, he will seek training with national and international experts in the field of innovative community development, increase his knowledge of wealth-building strategies for low- to moderate-income communities and develop the skills to be a leader who drives sustainable change.

Karina Perkins
Robbinsdale, MN — Karina Perkins sees an opportunity to improve addiction treatment services and systems, which currently reach just 9% of people who need care. With her Bush Fellowship, she will build the leadership skills necessary to champion a systemic change to treat addiction with a disease management approach. She will deepen her knowledge of substance abuse treatment models and innovations in disease management, increase her ability to transfer knowledge to practice and seek mentors in policymaking and health care reform. She will pursue advanced certification in substance use disorder treatment and trauma-informed care, as well as key certifications through Harvard University’s Online Leadership & Management Program.

Tomi Phillips
Fort Yates, ND —Tomi Phillips wants to transform the way we educate Native students. She seeks to instill in teachers a deeper understanding of different world views and learning styles. Her goals are to inspire positive changes in tribal education, encourage more Native people to become teachers and deepen the pool of non-Native teachers who are in tune with the relational way Native children see the world. After years of being a principal, she seeks to expand her knowledge, network and influence by earning a doctorate degree in educational leadership.

Tyler Read
Rapid City, SD — Tyler Read employs art as his tool to improve his community. He believes that art can help young people form their identity and be more engaged in the world around them. He discovered this himself when he moved to Rapid City in 2004 with no understanding of what “community” could mean. Through art, he found success and belonging in his new home. He is passionate about the role public art spaces can play in fostering equity, empathy and shared responsibility. With his Bush Fellowship, he will connect with leading public arts programs across the country to gain new perspectives and knowledge. He also will forge new paths of leadership by offering his expertise and experiences with curious communities and potential collaborators.

Catherine Squires
Saint Paul, MN — Catherine Squires wants to transform schools into spaces of intentional, intergenerational learning and healing. She seeks new ways to design learning programs that bring together underserved youth, adults and elders to reflect, share stories, reclaim their heritage and repair broken bonds. She wants youth to learn directly from the stories of elders and to make connections between historical challenges and contemporary issues. With her Bush Fellowship, she deepen her understanding of the connections between healing and storytelling at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality and Healing, the Loft Literary Center and site visits to intergenerational healing programs in the U.S and Canada.

Heather Dawn Thompson
Rapid City, SD — Heather Dawn Thompson wants to engage the private sector to assist the Great Plains Tribes in their efforts to build their strength and self-sufficiency. She is a national expert in Indian law and economic development who seeks greater expertise to respond to dwindling federal assistance and limited grant opportunities for Native nations. She believes that long-term self-sufficiency can come with growth in the financial proficiency needed to compete in a complicated private marketplace. She also believes strong leadership requires the wisdom that the Lakota language and values provide. She will use her Bush Fellowship to pursue corporate finance training, combining it with a focus on traditional Lakota values of leadership, language and self-sufficiency.

Vaughn Vargas
Rapid City, SD — Vaughn Vargas knows that an effective police force needs to reflect the racial makeup of the community it is sworn to protect. He is coordinator of the first-ever cultural advisory committee in South Dakota for a law enforcement agency, an appointment he took on while completing his engineering degree. He wants to help diversify law enforcement agencies through focusing on organizational behavior and culture. With his Bush Fellowship, he will develop new methods to recruit and retain Native American police officers; he will also attend the Harvard Extension School for leadership training. His personal development will focus on research in historical Lakota leadership and diplomatic relations.

Michael Walker
Brooklyn Park, MN — Michael Walker’s goal is to awaken the greatness within young black men. As director of the Office of Black Male Student Achievement for Minneapolis Public Schools, he wants to change the way young men believe in themselves and how the community views them in return. He envisions a community where young black men define their own values and dreams, achieve their rightful success and are seen as productive members of society. To advance his expertise and leadership, he will use his Bush Fellowship to finish his doctoral degree, strengthen his research skills and become a certified trainer on Psychological First Aid and Trauma in the Black Body.

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