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Running Strong introduces Dreamstarter GOLD

Today, it is with great excitement that we are announcing a new program: Dreamstarter® GOLD! In 2014, Dreamstarter® was created to honor our National Spokesperson, Billy Mills, and celebrate the dreams of Native youth. Dreamstarter® GOLD was created to support the expansion and long-term impact of those dreams. Five of our previous Dreamstarters have been selected to receive $50,000 each to build upon their previous dream. These young leaders represent excellence in Indian Country and are making incredible impacts in their communities. 

Dreamstarter® GOLD recipients are a collective of Indigenous leaders working throughout the country, dedicated to creating positive change for present-day and future generations of Native youth. They are committed to pursuing their dreams on their terms, promoting wellness for themselves and their communities, reimagining what it means to be Indigenous, and reinforcing connections between one another and the land.

Our first five Dreamstarter® GOLD recipients are:

2015 Dreamstarter Noah Blue Elk Hotchkiss, S. Ute/S. Cheyenne/Caddo 

Noah is improving the lives of Native Americans living with disabilities and expanding the programming of his non-profit, Tribal Adaptive Organization. Tribal Adaptive Organization educates against misperceptions and barriers to people with disabilities in Indian Country and encourages healthy, active lifestyles via wheelchair sports clinics.

2015 Dreamstarter Dr. Cristin Haase, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe 

Cristin is increasing Native representation in higher education and health professions by mentoring through the application process and helping to overcome institutional barriers. She will expand her Pre-Admissions Dental Workshop to include other professional health programs offered at A.T. Still University including Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, Doctor of Physical Therapy, Athletic Training, and Physician Assistant.

2016 Dreamstarter Jeremy Dennis, Shinnecock Indian Nation  

Jeremy is preserving historical and cultural landscapes on ancestral Shinnecock tribal territory, through digital photography and storytelling. He will engage the public in Indigenous history using maps, an interactive website, books, travelling exhibitions, and free workshops for youth to learn photography and historical preservation through digital documentation.

2017 Dreamstarter Dr. Sara (Chase) Merrick, Hoopa Valley Tribe  

Sara is preserving her culture and language by creating a Hupa Language Immersion Summer School. She is expanding her one week Hupa Immersion camp into a four week long summer school program for youth in her community. She and local Hupa speakers will teach conventional school subjects and cultural activities in a uniquely Hupa way. The Hupa language is a highly endangered language and only a handful of fluent speakers remain.

2017 Dreamstarter Riel LaPlant, Blackfeet Nation  

Riel is working with Indigenous communities and local schools in the Seattle area to design solutions for orca and salmon conservation – two keystone species of the Pacific Northwest, specifically the Salish Sea. Drawing from Indigenous environmental knowledge and using project-based learning, Riel will develop a curriculum and his students will partner with Native communities to support local conservation efforts.

Please join us in congratulating our inaugural class of Dreamstarter® GOLD recipients! To learn more about their dreams, please visit