Following are scholarship winners from some previous years. In 2019, thanks to additional funds from the Governor’s Office of Community Service, we were able to award scholarships to a second group of students.
Dennison Scholarship Previous Winners
Lee Adler, University of Montana
Lee founded and runs the Safer Hometowns Project for Resources and Development (SHPRD), which focuses on providing free community safety and security resources such as active shooter resistance training, security analysis, and EMS instruction. He also donates his time as an Operation Blazing Sword (OBS) Self Defense Instructor offering free lessons in marksmanship and firearms safety, as well as basic EMS and martial arts skills. He is also active in suicide prevention work.
“I have a deep love for protecting and providing for my community … I envision a world where kids won’t be afraid of being shot in schools…a world where LGBTQIA+ folks aren’t the targets of violence because of their sexuality or identity…a world where authors can expose racism in the religious community and not receive death threats…a world where 22 veterans don’t take their lives every day in America.”
Danny Lynn Eder, City College MSU Billings
Danny volunteers for the Native American Club as well as cultural events hosted at MSUB and on the Fort Peck reservation, his home. But Danny mainly volunteers his time helping others – from assisting his fellow students in electrical, welding and math to volunteering his help in working with farmers and ranchers in Western Montana. He wants everyone to succeed.
“I would like to return to my hometown and help the small town by bringing businesses and jobs to my area to help it prosper.”
Sharleen Gilham, Blackfeet Community College
Sharleen volunteers for several organizations including Cowboys for Life Circle of Hope, which assists cancer patients travel from the Blackfeet reservation to their doctor appointments that can be 100+ miles away; Pikuni Youth Rodeo which provides healthy outlets for kids through horsemanship and teamwork; the local humane society; and as the Blackfeet Community College Nursing School class representative, she helps students who are struggling with their studies.
“I want to create a family-based program within our community that makes mental health a less taboo and easily attainable resource. Blackfeet people (and Natives as a whole) are less likely to ask for help with mental health issues because it is seen as a weakness. I aim to change this and offer mental health care that is empowering and fulfilling on a holistic level.”
Ashly Graham, MSU Northern
Ashly a non-traditional student, wife and mother, volunteers her time with the Hill County Community Foundation, assisting with event planning, social media management and building their website. She also volunteers her time helping other students with photography, one of her passions.
“My vision for the community of Havre is to build a community that promotes arts and culture, addresses the needs of the less fortunate and supports the unique and valuable resources that are currently available… In a small rural community such as Havre, these resources have a large, and sometimes life-changing, impact on families.”
Connor Hague, Carroll College
Connor’s volunteer service includes everything from answering the crisis line to accompanying survivors in their road to recovery through the Friendship Center; through ExolorationWorks she introduces girls to the STEM fields, her passion and area of study; and she advocates for and connects with seniors through Compassus Hospice, Palliative Care and Home Health.
“I want to live in and contribute to a global community that is adamantly meeting everyone’s basic needs…Survivors of domestic abuse often have to flee with nothing, and start their lives anew. But when scaled down to a community, these basic needs can often be met with basic solutions. I can’t give every survivor a home, car, and job – but I can provide one pair of shoes and food for the night.”
Caitlin Holzer, Montana State University
Caitlin is passionate about helping those who are struggling with mental illness and barriers to healthcare as well as helping vulnerable youth to develop positive coping skills through outdoor adventures and community service. She created an annual MSU event, the Montanathon, to raise funds for Shodair Children’s Hospital for youth battling mental illness and genetic disorders. She has also been intimately involved in fundraising for the Swifty Foundation, raising $8500 by leading a head-shaving campaign. Currently, she is helping to start Bozeman’s only broad-based community nonprofit organization to bring together community members and organizations to make holistic and sustainable changes to improve healthcare in Bozeman and Montana.
“I imagine and create a world where everyone can find their voice and ability to make positive change. My vision is for no person to deny themselves healthcare because of mental health stigma or lack of healthcare coverage. Having a mentor and an entire community rallying behind you can make the world’s difference in leading a happy and healthy life, and I work to do exactly that.”
Ian Issaia McRyhew, Salish Kootenai College
Ian is a passionate ambassador for wildlife and conservation. As the SKC SEEDS Ecology President, he is helping to build awareness and raise funds for a memorial for a beloved teacher, and a native plants restoration project. Through the Natural Resource club he educates others about waste and recycling with a goal of getting rid of all single use plastics on campus. He has also helped build homes for the homeless in Mexico.
“My vision is that we learn to be mindful of others. Mindful of our waste. Mindful of our actions and of the health of our planet….I would love to be part of teaching new generations about the history and impact mankind has had on the animal kingdom. One of my biggest dreams is to be able to go to the land of my ancestors, the Jicarilla Apache Nation, and help my community through land management and wildlife conservation.”
Willow Peterson, MSU Billings
Willow is President of the MSUB HEROES organization (part of the BACCHUS Peer Education Network), which works to educate and inform student, faculty, administrators, and staff about health issues that affect the campus community, including: alcohol use, abuse, and misuse; HIV/AIDS; tobacco awareness and cessation; fitness, nutrition and sexual health; and to increase awareness and communication within the academic community regarding health-related matters for college students.
“My vision for my community at MSU Billings is that students will be comfortable to ask questions about their physical, mental, sexual, and emotional health as well as make healthier choices for themselves despite college pressures.”
Roy Savage Jr, University of Montana
As a veteran, Roy’s mission in life is to help those suffering from trauma to heal. His volunteer efforts include a founding and building Heroes Therapeutic Outreach Program, a non-profit that provides free mind/body/spirit programs for veterans at the Red Willow Learning Center. He is also a founding service provider and volunteer for Joining Community Forces – Missoula Region.
“Every day I get the opportunity to see people achieve amazing results in their life by changing their state of mind. I believe in a multi-faceted approach to wellness that incorporates a slow but steady change from habits that do not support them in their lives to habits that propel them forward.”
Keaton Sunchild, University of Providence
Keaton has a passion for making the world a better place, and believes that he can best do that through politics. At the age of 18 Keaton ran for a seat in the Montana House of Representatives. Despite his loss, he is running again in hopes of giving young people a voice in the direction of our state and our country. Keaton also volunteers with Great Falls Rising, representing high school to college aged people in Great Falls. His goal is to give his generation the best possible chance to succeed.
“I want to get involved at a young age because I think that is the only way for us to get the world back on track, and have everyone start to get along again. This generation is better about seeing each other as people first, and not a political party first. I think that we need more of that.”
Sarah Swingley, Carroll College
As a volunteer for Youth Aware of Mental Health (YAM), Sarah helps freshman students learn effective methods of tackling life’s stressors through role play and group discussion. As a YAM instructor, she also teaches her peers about depression and suicide. As the co-founder of the Niceness is Priceless Club, Sarah helps spread kindness through small random acts of kindness and working with high school and elementary students to help them develop emotional intelligence, empathy and kindness skills.
“I have always had a heart for the little, the least, and the lost. I truly believe that every person I interact with has value and worth which deserves to be recognized and appreciated…My vision for my community is that no one would ever feel alone, but rather that they would have someone in their life who cherishes them.”
Grace Anderson is the lead facilitator for The Center for Recovering Students at MSU and serves on the Gallatin County DUI Task Force. She works to change the culture around drugs and alcohol at MSU and in Montana. She also co-founded Freedom by Design – a club that provides design/build solutions to non-profits that would otherwise lack the ability to provide services to those with physical disabilities.
Mason Dow co-founded Feeding the 406, an organization that collects leftover food from school cafeterias and then delivers the items to the Poverello Center where meals for homeless and at-rick Missoula residents are served. Efforts are underway to incorporate this model of waste reduction into the City of Missoula’s zero-waste goals.
Jacqueline Elm founded the nonprofit, Grandfamilies of Montana, Inc., dedicated to providing grandfamilies with the resources, education and support to ensure the best possible future for children. The nonprofit also works to increase the public awareness of grandparents raising grandchildren.
Sarah Howell volunteers with the Student Montana Education Association where she has also served as president, and the Victory Kids Program, as well as being a tutor and mentor to Title I elementary school kids through the Providence Formation Program, an organization with a focus on social justice issues.
Jessica Novak’s numerous volunteer activities include coordinating Rocky Mountain College’s Halloween for Hunger event, an annual food drive that provides roughly 1500 pounds of food for students and families in need. She also helped coordinate Art Crawl, where volunteers facilitate student collaborative art projects to sell at auction to help fund the creation of an Inclusive Sensory Playground.
Jessica Schmitz is the president of both the Carroll Outreach Team (COT) and Enactus, where she volunteers her time to many efforts from organizing food drives to working with a program that provides students in need with backpacks full of nutritious meals to eat over the weekends. She is also a coach for youth fast pitch softball.
Grace Anderson, Senior at Montana State University, Major: Architecture
For the past 3 years Grace has worked with fundraising, programming and campus outreach around issues concerning substance misuse and abuse. She currently serves as chair of Montana State University’s Center for Recovering Students (CRS) and has served 2 years on the Gallatin County DUI Task Force, a county commissioner appointed board tasked with the education and prevention of driving under the influence.
“Community efforts instill a sense of belonging and camaraderie in me — that there is nothing we cannot do together, and there is nothing we must endure alone. I would not be graduating if it wasn’t for CRS: the help they gave me and the purpose they handed me in a leadership role…I am inspired by the compassion and resiliency these students possess and see their successes as a necessary piece in solving a complex problem facing every college campus.”
Durand T. Bear Medicine, Senior at Montana State University Northern, Major: Community Leadership
Durand provides guidance and leadership to youth. As a Pikuni Legacy Dancer and singer of different styles of Blackfeet dance, he exposes local and off-reservation youth to cultural diversity and practices. For youth experiencing issues with substance use or disorders, he connects them to resources available in the community. He is also a leader of the Grammy Nominated drum group, Young Grey Horse, a family group.
“I observed my grandfather speak in Glacier National Park. He educated and shared his knowledge about the Blackfeet Culture. His dedication and commitment to teaching others through storytelling…have inspired me to do the same, which I have done as a powwow singer, professional, community member and most importantly, as a father.”
Kaeleigh Cain, Freshman, Fort Peck Community College
Kaeleigh has volunteered supporting blood drives and clothing drives in her community, as well as other various community engagement work on her reservation. She plans to use her education to serve her reservation through the field of medicine – especially in the areas of alcohol and drug abuse prevention and teen pregnancy prevention.
“I want to see the rate of teen pregnancy go down and have these teens feel as if they are able to go to someone for help…I want to provide the encouragement they need to go back to college and achieve their dreams.”
Heidi Hohmann, Junior, Carroll College, Health Science/Public Health
Heidi has volunteered the past three years as a health educator for the annual Special Olympics Montana Health Clinic, for five years with the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service (SCRAPS), and she volunteers weekly at Bryant Elementary in the Sixth Ward in Helena, helping to build resiliency in children who have experienced the toxicity of stress through adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). In addition to being an Asian American immigrant, she will be the first in her family to graduate from a four-year college. Her future plans include working in health care internationally through the Peace Corps.
“Heidi is a great example of what Carroll College strives to instill in our students—that what we do isn’t just for school, but for life. In keeping with the ideals of George Dennison, she has invested and continues to invest her time in improving her community and making this world a better place.” — Gerald Schafer, Assistant Professor of Health Sciences, Carroll College
Hannah Catherine Johnson, Sophomore, Helena College, Associate of Science, Double major in Public Health and Biochemistry
Hannah’s many volunteer activities include working on initiatives through Montana Associated Students, serving on the diversity committee as an Associated Students of Helena College Student Representative, serving as an orientation leader, serving as vice president of the TRiO Club and Secretary of the Chemistry club, and being a volunteer teacher for the Creative Arts Center.
“I am very passionate about the importance and impact that two year schools can have on a student…As ASHC President, one of my main priorities is to serve the needs of HC students by working collectively with Carroll College, MSU, and UM to create better transfer pathways for students.”
Shayla McGregor, Senior, University of Montana Western, Major: Elementary Education
Shayla’s volunteer efforts include time in Peers Advocating Towards Health (PATH), a health advocacy group that aids students in making healthy and informed choices; one program implemented was titled Sex in the Dark, a program focused on sexuality and sexual health topics. She has also been instrumental in organizing events through her roles as a Resident Assistant, a Student Senator, and a mentor in the TRIO program. Shayla has a passion for educating her peers, which gives her drive to continue to create informational programs to address the needs in her community.
“…My vision for the education system is to provide rich, authentic, and engaging experiences for individuals to come to their own thoughts and conclusions about the world…As an elementary education major my career aspirations are to truly inspire my students to develop a passion for lifelong learning. I believe that the lack of education is at the core of many of the nation’s most pressing issues.”
Sophie Moon, Senior, University of Montana, Major: Political Science & Environmental Studies
Sophie has been a volunteer with the Montana Public Interest Research Group (MontPIRG) for all four years of college, helping to register thousands of students to vote and increasing voter turnout. She has served as the vice chair and the chair of MontPIRG’s board of directors. She has also been a volunteer with Garden City Harvest for three years and this past summer she was an intern for U.S. Senator Jon Tester.
“My experience in the public sector has inspired my vision for the nation, in which people of all communities can afford sustainable food, farm workers are seen as public servants rather than disposable labor, and the prevailing agricultural practices support a healthy environment and a competitive economy.”
Brooklyn Olson, Freshman, University of Montana, Major: Political Science, Pre-Law, & Philosophy
Brooklyn is a mentor through Make-A-Wish Foundation and is a past mentor with a multi-year history of volunteering with Big Brothers and Sisters as well.
“My match inspired me to become a lawyer focused on family law, which I am now pursuing. My match also changed his lifestyle. He ate better, got better grades, and put himself on a better lifestyle track. I am so happy to say I contributed to that.”
Rebecca Stein Phipps, Second Year Student, Miles Community College, Major: Graphic and Web Design, with certificates in Sales & Marketing and Accounting
BeKa is a highly-respected member of her community, known for her willingness to help out wherever she can. After several years as a volunteer with Montana Warriors on the Water, BeKa was recently elected to its Board of Directors. She is also a volunteer with Walleyes Unlimited of Montana-Jordan Chapter and previously with the Garfield County Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture.
“Volunteering my time and effort allows me to connect with others from various parts of the community (and sometimes country) that I normally wouldn’t have much contact with. It’s humbling to know the work within these groups sticks with the recipients for a lifetime, especially those who were struggling before.”
Maria Azucena “Susie” Rodriguez, Sophomore, Miles Community College, Major: Nursing
As a volunteer for Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance (MIJA), Susie donates her time to help bring security, hope, peace and happiness to immigrant children and families. She also teaches medical Spanish to health providers, medical technicians and nurses at her local hospital.
“I am part of a nonprofit called MIJA and I am the president to our community advisory board. We provide education, resources, legal clinics to immigrants families. We are the bridge to resources in our community…I feel like I am the voice of the unspoken one”.
Angela Boyce, Sophomore at Flathead Valley Community College, General Studies with an emphasis in Nursing
“I believe the well-being of an individual has a strong ripple effect on the community.”
Angela’s main volunteer activity since she started at FVCC is as a hospice volunteer, spending time with patients and providing primary caregiver respite. She has also been a volunteer/apprentice doula and midwife, offering services to low income women. Her goal is to become a Nurse Midwife after completing a Master’s degree in nursing.
Hailey Lee Eakin, Junior at the University of Montana, majoring in Social Work and Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies with a minor in Nonprofit Administration
“Volunteering and devoting my time to community issues has enriched my life and strengthened my connection to my community as well as deepened my understanding of the systematic roots and cyclical patterns of many social issues such as poverty, homelessness, and racism. It is very rewarding to use what I have learned in the classroom to meet tangible needs in my community…I envision a world in which people do not have to choose between a gallon of gas or a gallon of milk, paying rent or buying food; keeping their job or coming out as gay; staying in an abusive relationship or experiencing homelessness. Too often these are choices that people in our communities have to make.”
According to a friend and mentor who has known Hailey since she transitioned from foster care into the Tom Roy Youth Guidance Home, Hailey is a committed activist in her community as well as in her personal life. She has risen above her own personal challenges and strives to return what she has been given. Her current volunteer efforts are primarily with Montana Women Vote and fundraising efforts with Triota, the National Women’s Studies Honor Society. She has also spent her last two summers as a member of AmeriCorps and VISTA working with low income populations through the Missoula Food Bank and the YWCA GUTS! (Girls Using Their Strengths!) Program. She hopes to use her education to create a non-profit organization that provides services for LGBTQ foster youth.
Ronald Martin, Sophomore at Fort Peck Community College majoring in Business Technology
“My vision is to encourage, motivate and uplift children in at risk environments to do better and follow their goals no matter what! I want to see everyone make it in life and won’t stop until I change more lives than days I spend on this earth!”
According to Elijah Hopkins, VP of Student Services at Fort Peck Community College, “Ronald engages in community service because he understands the critical need. He grew up in an area of Cleveland, Ohio were gangs and street violence were commonplace. He believes community service is necessary to create positive influencers, attributing his commitment to community service to the Rainey Institute – a Cleveland nonprofit that changed his life.”
Ronald’s main volunteer activities are through the Native Pathway’s to College Bridge Program at FPCC. His belief in the importance of education to change one’s life for the better enables him to make direct connections with students, where he is a positive role model. He dreams of creating his own nonprofit before the age of 27, and starting a foundation that will help put over one million students through school.
Adriana Pittman, Freshman, the University of Montana Western majoring in Secondary Education Math and Science
“I want to inspire kids through my teaching to follow their dreams!”
Adrianna began her volunteer activities with 4H long before she entered college. Through 4H this past year she started a “Go Green” project that focuses on pollution and the overuse of plastics. She also volunteers as a math and science tutor and as a softball coach for young girls. She plans to use her education to become a high school math or science teacher, while also working to improve the environment.
Kaia Roberge, Sophomore at Carroll College, majoring in Sociology
“I would like to imagine a world in which humans respect each other and treat others equally. To me, this would specifically manifest in gender equality. “
Kaia volunteers many hours each month at the Friendship Center, a women’s shelter and resource center for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence in Helena. After attending a 70-hour training to be a victim’s advocate, Kaia volunteers for 65-hour shifts on the Hotline. As the first person an assault victim speaks to, she listens and empowers them to make the best decisions regarding the next steps. Her volunteer work ranges from answering the hotline to accompanying rape victim’s to the hospital, or locating emergency housing at all hours of the day and night.
Stori Smith, Sophomore at Montana State University, majoring in Conservation Biology and Ecology
“I’m learning how community involvement works and how effective it can be, even on a small scale. I watch the university’s waste shrink by sending food to a compost bin. Rather than use their finite funds, students can find new clothes through the clothing swap. Day-old bakery bread goes to someone’s next meal instead of needlessly going to a trash bin.”
Stori is a passionate conservationist who chose MSU because of its environmental studies programs. For the past 18 months she has spent many hours volunteering with SNow (Sustainability Now) and Bounty of the Bridgers food pantry. Through SNow she has helped bring awareness of food waste to the MSU dining halls. Through the club’s effort the dining hall is now composting to keep food out of the waste stream. She has also helped in organizing ongoing clothing swaps where proceeds go towards purchasing laundry bags that prevent clothes’ plastics from entering our water systems. Through Bounty of the Bridgers Stori has helped open a food pantry where every Saturday, anyone affiliated with MSU can come and take whatever free food they need, no questions asked. The food is collected locally from stores, restaurants and bakeries – food that would otherwise have entered the waste stream.
Gabriel Aponte, Rocky Mountain College, Billings, MT. Aponte is a sophomore with a triple major in Environmental Science, Environmental Management and Policy, and Business. As president of the Environmental Club at RMC he has helped run the campus recycling and BikeRMC programs, raised funds for 10 students to attend the Wildlife Society Conference, and planted trees at Pompey’s National Monument. He has also participated in clean-up efforts at Rimrocks—a site of historical importance to RMC, participated with other students in the Yellowstone Valley Citizens Council, and participated in rallies in Billings to raise awareness about environmental issues.
“As college students, we care about the future. We have the opportunity to build a better society.”
Dawn Holt, Blackfeet Community College, Browning, MT. Ms. Holt will receiver her AA in Addictions Studies in the Spring of 2017 and her plans include being a Licensed Addiction Counselor. She has been very active in substance abuse recovery; assisting elders, at-risk youth, and the homeless; and working within her community to preserve the Blackfeet way of life.
“The groups I am involved with are people with the same vision, the same goals to help our people overcome the struggles of addiction, and learn to live a healthy lifestyle in a good way and be good to one another, help one another, trust each other, love each other, and most importantly mentor each other.”
Rachel Juel, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT. Juel is a junior and an Honors Student majoring in Science and Biochemistry. After graduation she plans to volunteer for the Peace Corps as a biology or science teacher, before returning to school to get her Masters and possibly Doctorate degrees. Her volunteer work has included being a ski instructor for people with disabilities, sharing her love of science in elementary schools and high schools throughout Montana through the STEM Space Public Outreach Team, being a group leader for Extending Your Horizons, a day-long STEM camp for young girls, and traveling to Haiti to work with locals in constructing houses, establishing gardens and assisting in a travelling medical clinic.
“I believe that all students should have the support and desire to attend an institute of higher education…My primary goal is local: uplifting rural Montana students so they too may be successful in College life.”
Chris O’Bleness, University of Montana, Missoula, MT. O’Bleness will graduate from UM’s Doctor of Pharmacy Program in Spring 2017. From there he plans to continue his community service as a practicing pharmacist to medically underserved populations. Throughout college he has volunteered at the Poverello Center and the Missoula Food Bank. He served for 3 years at the crisis center at the University of Montana, and as student director of Advocates for Non-Violence, he worked to raise awareness about violence and assault, and was a guest speaker at the 2015 Not in Our State Sexual Assault Summit.
“My vision is a world where people are actively living their lives in loving ways. Loving ways such that your intentions and actions come from a place of understanding and compassion. That we pursue these aims with joy and inclusiveness in our communities. That we reach out with kindness out of love for others, ourselves, and the world around us. And that we strive to have the greatest positive impact on the world we can.”
Emily Schaff, Rocky Mountain College, Billings, MT. Ms. Schaff is a Junior majoring in Communications Studies with minors in Business Management and Organizational Leadership. Emily has been a volunteer for the Office of Community Engagement and the Office of Spiritual Life on campus. Through these campus offices she has created many volunteer opportunities for her peers, as well as participated in them. These events include Halloween for Hunger and No Kid Hungry campus campaigns, and fundraising efforts for local elementary schools. Through the Montana Special Olympics she created a campus SO club and a Respect Rally to help raise awareness about the derogatory use of the word, “retard(ed).”
“As a sibling of a special needs individual, I have always had a special place in my heart for advocating for special needs people…through my institution’s family-like community and support system, I was able to make lasting relationships with Special Olympics Montana staff members, coaches, volunteers, and athletes.”
Ashlin Staso, University of Montana, Missoula, MT. Staso will graduate in Spring 2017 with a BS in Exercise Science, Health and Human Performance. She plans to continue on to graduate school and to eventually become a Physician Assistant. Ashlin has volunteered her time working in children’s after school programs and served as a peer mentor to incoming freshman through the Davidson Honors College. She traveled to Antigua, Guatemala to participate in a number of service projects including building homes for poor families and visiting with children at a local orphanage. She has also been a volunteer camp counselor for children with muscular dystrophy, and has been a volunteer big sister through Big Brothers and Sisters of Missoula for several years. She was also elected as a Student Representative to attend the National Student Leadership Forum in Washington, DC.
“I envision a world where individuals recognize that their volunteer contributions do not have to be monumental or extravagant to be meaningful and influential. I did not set out at the beginning of my college education to be the most active advocate or volunteer on campus. I simply set out with the intention to use my talents and abilities to give back to my community and world, no matter how small the task seemed. Reflecting back on the culmination of four years of dedication and effort, I have been blessed to see that my efforts have made a difference in the lives of others. Volunteer work has taught me that it isn’t always about being the smartest, most creative, most athletic, or most successful. It is simply a matter of identifying a need and taking active steps to meet that need.”
Amber Williamson, Blackfeet Community College, Browning, MT. Williamson will graduate in Spring 2016 with an AA in Social Work and then she will continue pursuing her Social Work degree at the University of Montana. Williamson’s volunteer work has been with late and end stage cancer patients, domestic violence issues, suicide prevention and addiction reduction. Upon graduation with her BA in Social Work, she plans to move back to her home to continue serving her community in these same areas.
“Having been raised in beautiful Blackfeet country, I understand the struggles and hardships bestowed on our people. So much preventable death and suffering that I could not be true to myself, nor my family, if I did not pursue a degree to serve my community in a positive way. As a child and teen directly affected by continual death and addiction, with a lifetime in my community, surrounded by violence and grief all around, I grew into an adult and mother of three (very young daughters) who has the steeled determination to make a difference.”