Bush Foundation Selects 24 Visionary Leaders For 2021 Bush Fellowships

By Kathy Graves


The Bush Foundation today announced the 2021 Bush Fellows, 24 visionary individuals who are leading transformative change in their communities. The Fellows hail from Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and the 23 Native nations that share the same geography.

The 2021 Fellows are:

Patricia Acevedo Fuente, Rapid City, SD

Kahin Adam, Saint Cloud, MN

E.G. Bailey, Minneapolis, MN

John Lee Clark, Saint Paul, MN

Antonio Espinosa, Maplewood, MN

Sandra Gabriela Filardo, Eden Prairie, MN

Dr. Rachel Renee Hardeman , Golden Valley, MN\

Peter Hill, Pine Ridge, SD

Salma Hussein, Brooklyn Park, MN

Guled Ibrahim, St. Louis Park, MN

Nathan Caleb Johnson, Minneapolis, MN

Naomi Ko, Savage, MN

Wizipan Little Elk, Mission, SD

Kimimila Locke, Wakpala, SD

Brian Lozenski , Mounds View, MN

Michelle Tran Maryns, Minneapolis, MN

Natalie Nicholson, Bemidji, MN

Dziwe Willard Ntaba, Minneapolis, MN

Funlola Otukoya, Minneapolis, MN

Courtney Schaff, Fargo, ND

Jodi Rave Spotted Bear, Twin Buttes, ND

Justin Terrell, Richfield, MN

Mai Thor, Oak Park Heights, MN

Michael Jon Westerhaus, Minneapolis, MN

Mai Thor – Oak Park Heights, MN

Mai Thor seeks to embed disability justice in the work of larger justice and equity movements. As a person living with a disability and as a leader who has helped design more accessible and inclusive systems for people with disabilities, she sees that social justice movements often leave disability out of their efforts. She wants to transform these movements to be completely accessible and inclusive so that every march, rally or community meeting is informed by a disability perspective. To grow her capacity to lead, she will study ableism and disability culture, history and law. She will also convene a network of social justice and disability justice leaders to build understanding and greater solidarity.

“The 2021 Fellows are addressing a wide variety of issues in communities around the region,” said Bush Foundation Vice President of Grantmaking Anita Patel. “Each is seeking to be a stronger leader and greater force for justice and equity.”

The Bush Fellowship provides Fellows with up to $100,000 over 12 to 24 months to pursue education and learning experiences that help them develop the skills and relationships to foster large-scale change in their communities and region. The Fellowship is distinctive in its flexibility, allowing Fellows to define what they need to become more effective and equitable leaders. Fellows can use the funding to pursue such things as education, leadership training, networking and mentorship.

“We believe in investing in people who can address challenges today and who are driven to grow their ability to have even greater impact in the future,” Patel said. “We see past Bush Fellows at the forefront of solving our region’s most critical issues, and we are excited to see the impact these new 2021 Fellows will have in the coming years.”

Fellows are selected by a diverse group of community leaders from across the region. From this year’s 538 applications, a committee of Bush Fellow alumni selected quarterfinalists for one-to-one mentoring sessions with a Bush Fellow alum. Semi-finalists shared more about their vision and plan with Foundation staff, and finalists completed interviews with a selection committee of community leaders.

“These 24 Fellows are committed to strengthening their capacity to lead large-scale, equitable change,” said Patel. “In this time when our region faces reckoning around racial justice sparked by the murder of George Floyd, inequities exposed by COVID-19 and challenges to Native sovereignty, we need leaders who can imagine new systems and transform existing ones. We find inspiration in the vision these Fellows offer our region as they work inside and outside of systems to foster new and just approaches.”

More than 2,400 people have received support from the Fellowship. The Bush Fellowship counts among its alumni playwright August Wilson; The Sioux Chef founder and CEO chef Sean Sherman; former Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson; author and storyteller Kevin Kling; founder of the Healing Justice Foundation Dr. Joi Lewis; epidemiologist and infectious disease expert Michael Osterholm; South Dakota poet laureate Lee Ann Roripaugh; Minneapolis City Council member Andrea Jenkins; Humanize My Hoodie Movement co-founder Jason Sole; and former special assistant to President Obama for Native American affairs Jodi Archambault.

The Bush Foundation will accept applications for the 2022 Bush Fellowship beginning August 10. The Bush Fellowship is open to anyone age 24 years and older who wants to build their ability to make change happen. Applicants must live in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota or one of the 23 Native nations that shares the same geography.

Mai Thor

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