Read about the 2012 Bush Fellows by following the link to a description of his or her fellowship plan:
The selection of Bush Fellows involves the work of members of the community who serve on preliminary and final selection committees. We thank them for their service.
Zahra Aljabri, Minneapolis, Minnesota
The hierarchical nonprofit governance structure—a board of directors with little to no meaningful community input—creates barriers to social impact. In the Minnesota Muslim community, our full potential and contributions have been unrealized due to this ineffective model. During my fellowship, and through my work at MuslimBuddy, Inc., I will research, develop and implement a community-organization governance model that fosters community-building and cultivates responsive organizations that value, listen and act upon community voices within the Minnesota Muslim community.
Katie Blanchard, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Colleges and universities in Minnesota spend at least $30 million on food every year. Since relationships are a key lever to building a thriving local food economy, I will work to bring together two previously isolated communities—college students and family farmers—to build relationships and invest their great purchasing power in local, environmentally and socially responsible farms and food businesses.
Sunny Sinh Chanthanouvong, Elk River, Minnesota
Civic engagement is the key to improving the quality of services and life in my Laotian American community, yet we have not participated as fully as possible. Through the fellowship, I will search for the root causes of this disengagement, learn from others and find ways to motivate my community to engage and connect with local government in a meaningful and civic way, making it a better place for all.
Shirley Chouinard, Cambridge, Minnesota
Child welfare workers and family violence advocates have noted that child abuse and family violence—together referred to as family violence—often occur in the same family, but are often addressed separately. During my fellowship, I plan to fuse the arts, culture and social change to engage community partners in three rural Minnesota counties in a fresh and bold dialogue to spur action through the “Collective Impact” model, which uses a systemic, data-driven approach to solving complex community problems. My goal is to develop a family violence prevention prototype through education.
Carl Cowell, Morton, Minnesota
My rural community (of European, Dakota, Hispanic and Philippine descent) has lost the leadership present only a few generations ago, and as a result, the non-agricultural sectors of the local economy are failing. Capable young people (ages 18 to 25) leave home and do not return. I will work with my community to develop leaders from all sectors who can inspire residents to overcome social, economic, cultural and racial issues to build a community full of energy and opportunity.
Rep. Raymond Dehn, Minneapolis, MN
Physical design decisions around transportation and housing impact the economic, environmental and even cultural aspects of the community, as well as the health and well-being of individuals. I have been working locally on issues of housing and transportation for over a decade. That experience, along with my work in the architecture profession, city government and my recent election to the Minnesota House of Representatives, gives me a solid base from which to decipher how these areas of essential infrastructure interconnect with both the economy and community beautification. I will focus my fellowship on uncovering obstacles and deterrents that keep disinvested communities from becoming thriving, vibrant, successful communities.
Joel Donna, St. Paul, Minnesota
It is critical that all K-12 students have a deep understanding of science so they may become the next generation of science and engineering professionals and become citizens who use science to inform their everyday lives. Yet statewide assessments show that Minnesota has one of the largest science achievement gaps in the country. Improving teacher instructional practices and curricular resources that help students learn science by doing science can work to close this achievement gap. I will bring together science teachers, educational researchers and other stakeholders in the region to share, refine and make available online the collective instructional wisdom of our science education community to support science teachers and improve science learning for all students.
April Fairfield, Bismarck, North Dakota
While North Dakotans enjoy a strong economy and enviable fiscal health due to an oil boom, those benefits have not remedied the underfunding of programs for low-income people as policymakers have prioritized reducing government spending and growing reserves. Additionally, complicated revenue allocations mean that few policy discussions are infused with accurate fiscal information. My goal is to use analysis to highlight the implications of our state’s budget priorities in order to facilitate grassroots activism and inform asset-building work that counters regressive fiscal policies. My work will focus in the key areas of education, outreach and advocacy, and will connect to the broad agenda of poverty reduction in North Dakota.
Alika Galloway, Minneapolis, Minnesota
During my fellowship, I will advance solutions to the exploitation and disempowerment of African American females caused by endemic sex trading and trafficking in communities of generational poverty. While attention is growing regarding the issue of formalized networks of sex trafficking, exponentially less attention is paid to African American females who practice survival sex, sex trading and forced prostitution. I intend to work primarily with African American, sexually-exploited girls and women in North Minneapolis to build a grassroots movement to prevent and intervene in sex trading.
Melissa Goodwin, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Creative thinking is the seed of innovation, driving economies and improving quality of life. Creativity has been defined as an essential 21st-century skill, and yet there is little to no understanding regarding how to teach or foster this skill. Our schools and communities need leadership to help increase the understanding and importance of creativity and creative problem-solving. My fellowship will focus on integrating creative thinking in all aspects of life—from school curriculum to community activities—in an effort to cultivate innovation and create positive change.
Raymond Grey Bear, Fort Yates, North Dakota
Every three to five years the Standing Rock Sioux experience suicide clusters—at times in excess of 49 attempts in a 30-day period—with 16 completions over the last two decades. This is the highest rate in the nation. I hope to get "people moving together in a good way" concerning the issue of grieving the loss of a loved one. I will work to foster and resurrect a Dakota cultural practice called nagiwichopi (“to call back the spirit”) to develop a stronger indigenous perspective on grieving.
Rep. Ron Guggisberg, Fargo, North Dakota
During recent flood events, Fargoans showed their willingness to help in times of crisis. I believe there are many people in the community of Fargo that would like to help in similar ways; they just have not had the opportunity presented to them. Can we prepare citizens to help each other in a coordinated way?
With the support of my fellowship (and using my experience in emergency services as a volunteer firefighter, EMT and rescue diver), I will develop a program to teach basic emergency skills to those interested in participating. I will organize neighborhoods and expand the program to include other opportunities that allow citizens to give back to their community.
Lance Hegland, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Nearly 70,000 Twin Cities residents with varying circumstances need assistance with self‐care tasks including bathing, dressing and grooming. We struggle to connect and build long‐lasting relationships with the 63,000 direct support professionals (e.g., home health aides, personal care assistants, homemakers, residential advisors, job coaches) empowering our independence. During my fellowship I will collaborate with community members to develop critical tools that assist individuals with chronic illness, disability and aging to efficiently recruit, screen, train, schedule and evaluate their support team members, and vice versa.
Beth Holger-Ambrose, Minneapolis, Minnesota
The state of Minnesota has a problem with the sexual exploitation of children (also called sex trafficking) but does not have a solution as to how to respond and provide support services to those who have been affected. Through my work with runaway and homeless youth, who are often the victims of sexual exploitation, I have found that there are no comprehensive services in Minnesota that are tailored to children who have been traumatized by sexual exploitation. My goal is to research, design and implement a comprehensive, state-wide service model for sexually exploited youth.
Gayle Kocer, Martin, South Dakota
The tough problem I wish to work on with others is to involve Native and non-Native youth in claiming ownership of their community. This will include increasing their knowledge of the community, committing to a project or event in the community and working within the community on planning boards and businesses. It will also result in the addition of a school curriculum that will support continued youth involvement in the community.
Victoria Krook, Brooklyn Center, Minnesota
Latino culture does not recognize barriers to school success, such as mental health problems or learning disabilities. Even when Latino families recognize that there is a disability, most are not aware what their rights are for accessing services in their schools. My goal is to educate Latino families about these different learning barriers and to empower them to be advocates for their children in the school and wider community. I want to bridge the gap between Latino families and the mental health resources available in our schools and in our community.
Janice LaFloe, St. Paul, Minnesota
The loss of language in the American Indian community erodes the ability to pass on cultural values and norm, which in turn negatively affects early childhood development. My fellowship will address the need for a culturally specific early childhood learning opportunity for the American Indian community. I plan to pursue the merger of one of the most premier early learning models, the Association Montessori International method, with a language revitalization effort.
Annette Lee, Foreston, Minnesota
With the passing of Native elders, knowledge also dies. There is a critical need to reach elders and document their stories, such as stories about the stars, to preserve and foster our culture and language. My goal is to help prevent the loss of and preserve Ojibwe and Dakota/Lakota star knowledge and pass it on to present and future generations. Revitalizing indigenous astronomy will serve as an inspirational cornerstone for Native communities and be influential to Native students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, offering economic viability to Native peoples.
Rep. Carlos Mariani, St. Paul, Minnesota
The inevitability of major immigration reform will transform our social-political landscape and will occur in the context of major racial/cultural shifts in our body politic. I see a historic need to work on several agendas that must come together: 1) nurturing new leadership from Latino people who are not currently part of social power; 2) promoting new social policy goals of this rising Latino leadership aligned with the new racial diversity of Minnesota; and 3) connecting with other emerging communities to construct new social policy to guide a multiracial Minnesota society.
I propose to help shape a statewide Latino network that breaks through the regional social-political isolation of our fastest emerging community and strengthens their ability to come forward as local leaders. Together, an alignment of diverse communities will determine the nature of Minnesota’s new multiracial, multicultural societal norm. The quicker and more intentionally we can get to those alignments, the better our state will be.
Kenya McKnight, Minneapolis, Minnesota
North Minneapolis is greatly disconnected from our regional systems with limited access to other aspects of the City of Minneapolis. There are some unique opportunities that can help strengthen connectivity and access. The tough problem I wish to work on with my community partners is connectivity issues within transit and regional systems.
Kristine Miller, St. Paul, Minnesota
Low-income urban neighborhoods, like North Minneapolis, face ongoing rounds of disinvestment. In these same communities, however, amazing nonprofit organizations and residents are leveraging resources and relationships to improve neighborhood vitality and livability. During my fellowship I will bring together a collaborative, diverse group of problem-solvers who will transform the ways we plan and build our cities and bring equity to the forefront of urban redevelopment.
Brent Curtiss Olson, Ortonville, Minnesota
People living in rural areas who lack mobility due to age, income and/or illness have trouble accessing quality food at affordable prices. Small town grocery stores struggle to stay open because more affluent residents pass them by to drive longer distances for better variety. Our rural areas have lost their "diversity of opportunity" due to the industrialization of agriculture. A limiting factor in attracting and retaining people in rural areas is the perceived lack of interesting food. Four problems, one solution. During my fellowship, I plan to reopen a main street café, and offer the kitchen and adjoining annex to local foods producers who wish to create value-added products that could then be marketed through our local grocery store.
Peyton Scott Russell, Minneapolis, Minnesota
My fellowship involves the study of graffiti art and its effects on people, community and culture. The popularity of graffiti and street art has increased and is in heavy demand, yet most people do not want to address the reality of it. The focus of my fellowship is on engaging artists, parents, city officials, civil authorities, schools, community centers and arts organizations to publicly supporting this art form so that it may be taught safely in institutions across the state of Minnesota.
Christine Sorensen, Pierre, South Dakota
Communities within South Dakota continue to struggle with outmigration and an aging demographic. In those counties that do have workers, there is a lack of housing and training. In response to many of these concerns, regional planning initiatives have begun to emerge throughout the state. I want to analyze these regional initiatives and practices, collect data on what is working and create a collaborative environment where all can share information and succeed. With support from the Bush Fellowship Program, I will increase my capacity to evaluate these initiatives, research and engage in an online collaboration platform and hold a summit of organizations and citizens engaged in regional development.
Honor Schauland, Isabella, Minnesota
The rural area I live in does not have enough economic opportunity to retain most young people and families. We need to create a more diverse and sustainable economy in the area. Logging, mining and tourism provide some jobs, but they are unstable and growing more so. I propose to create an economic hub in Finland, Minnesota, that will support home-based businesses and other small businesses, and will provide job training and other economic development activities.
Heather Simonich, Moorhead, Minnesota
Child Traumatic Stress (CTS) may develop after a child feels intensely threatened by an event he or she is involved in or has witnessed. If left untreated, CTS can have devastating consequences including long-term difficulties with school, relationships and mental health. The goals of my fellowship are to increase awareness regarding CTS among school professionals, to implement a CTS screening and referral procedure within the schools and to develop a network of trauma-informed school professionals who are committed to promoting and sustaining CTS education in the schools.
Barbara Simpson Epps, St. Paul, Minnesota
Research has confirmed that the developmental environment young children experience in the first three years of life is crucial to brain development and future functioning. I plan to engage others in creating a system-wide, community-based and culturally-specific approach to address trauma- and stress-induced health issues in the lives of African American and American Indian children and families using the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES) and brain research. This approach is needed to address and change what is happening with children and families in the African American and American Indian communities of St. Paul, Minneapolis and across the state of Minnesota.
Read Sulik, M.D., Fargo, North Dakota
As the largest primarily rural health system in the United States, Sanford Health serves more American Indians in its clinics and hospitals in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota than any other large, major private nonprofit health system in the country. The health disparities among American Indians across the Northern Plains continue to be unacceptably vast, a condition that the indigenous people of Canada, New Zealand and Australia also experience. Learning from “pockets of success” in the U.S. and these other countries, I intend to gather information on best practices for integrating primary health care, behavioral health care and traditional healing so that the transformation of primary and behavioral health care delivery at Sanford Health can be best suited to serve American Indian patients, families and communities.
Pamela Teaney Thomas, Blackhawk, South Dakota
Our community has not valued input from youth or helped them connect to the community in a meaningful way to encourage civic engagement. I want to find ways to bridge the gap between city, school and community areas so that key leaders will invite youth to share their perspective in the decisions that impact them, and will engage and motivate them to become leaders in the community. Through my fellowship, I hope to help our community view its youth as resources for improving the quality of services and life in our community, and to motivate youth to engage and connect with the community in a meaningful and civic way, making it a better place for all.
Noreen Thomas, Moorhead, Minnesota
The rural community of Georgetown in northwest Minnesota exemplifies an unfortunate nationwide trend: the slow evaporation of America's small towns. Recently, there have been positive changes with young, college-age couples and individuals bringing unmatched talent and fresh ideas while infusing remarkable energy into our community. I plan to revive the vacant licensed kitchen in Georgetown's city hall as a community kitchen that would add vitality and sustainability to our town and offer new opportunities for the community to be “alive” in the future.
Kristi Townshend, Apple Valley, Minnesota
There is a significant lack of deaf education expertise within early childhood intervention programs, an important concern as the language development window is between infancy and three years of age. Deaf educational professionals often do not meet families of deaf children until this window has closed, often when the child starts school. I will use my fellowship to identify accurate research related to how deaf children acquire spoken language in conjunction with a sign language program. I plan to work with various early childhood intervention programs locally as well as within the medical/audiological areas to ensure accurate information is provided to families as they weigh their academic options for their deaf child.
Kalc Vang, West Lakeland, Minnesota
Advances in Minnesota’s high technology industries are creating a growing need for a highly skilled technical workforce with strong science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM) skills. The Twin Cities area is home to over 80,000 Hmong residents—considered one of the largest and fastest-growing Asian communities in the area. The number of Hmong students pursuing careers in STEM is one of the lowest in the state. The focus of my fellowship will be to develop a systematic program that will expand and bridge the gap between STEM education and Hmong students in order to educate and expose them to areas of study they typically do not pursue at an early stage. I want to encourage and support them to pursue higher education in a professional STEM-related career.
Tene Wells, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Low-income communities struggle to attract investment for sustainable economic growth. This fellowship will help me leverage my nonprofit leadership, business development and consulting experiences to access resources and knowledge that will give me the tools, confidence and courage to influence public and private investment for economic prosperity in low-income communities like North Minneapolis.