2018 25 Under 25 Awardees
July 18, 2018
Allison Johnson, Billings, MT
Allison firmly believes it is vital that everyone, regardless of age, ensures their voices are heard. She served as a Page in the Montana House of Representatives January 2017 (Sponsor: Representative Karjala), and as a Page in the US Senate June 2018 (Sponsor: US Senator Tester); experiences that have motivated her desire to be involved in public policy making. She is active in the Yellowstone County’s Democratic Central Committee. In 2018, she was a speaker at Billings’ Women’s March, was one of the lead organizers of Billings West High School’s Walkout protesting gun violence in schools, and was the lead organizer and emcee of Billings’ March for our Lives. She founded West High Democrats Club in 2017 and serves as president, and is active in her school’s Amnesty Club, French club and varsity tennis. Allison looks forward to her senior year this fall, then to college and new challenges beyond.
Avery Berg, Bozeman, MT
Raised in Bozeman, Avery Berg’s passion for a vibrant and welcoming community was instilled at a young age. Her participation in her middle school’s One Million Ways Club (a nod to “one million ways to make the world a better place”) fostered a respect towards all community members and their environment. This has transformed into a need to remain politically active to forward these values. Be it registering peers to vote through Forward Montana, frequently faxing her representatives, or submitting guest editorials to local newspapers, Avery demands that her community’s voice is heard. After spending her summers with the Yellowstone Youth Conservation Corps leading peers in environmental restoration projects, she has vowed to make the protection of our natural world among her highest priorities. As an MSU Presidential Scholar, Avery’s appetite to be on foot will be recognized as she pursues a degree in Fish & Wildlife Ecology & Management.
Brenna Merrill, Missoula, MT
Brenna received her master’s degree from Clark University, where she focused on social-justice centered youth work and practitioner self-care. At the time, she also worked in a crisis advocacy role in the youth homelessness field. Brenna then moved to Montana where she served as a domestic violence shelter advocate. She now coordinates the Make Your Move! Council in Missoula, which works to end sexual violence. She leads efforts in community-wide consent education and bystander intervention. The best parts of her job include promoting sexual violence prevention through a sex-positive and healthy relationship framework, working with a dedicated and innovative team, and getting to meet a wide variety of community members who are interested in making the world a better place. Brenna loves when folks follow the Make Your Move! Instagram account (@makeyourmovemissoula). She also loves ice cream.
Claire Lewinski, Bozeman, MT
Originally from Idaho, Claire Lewinski moved to Montana to continue to be close to the mountains while in school, and consequently found her home here. Claire is a Directed Interdisciplinary Studies degree candidate combining chemical engineering, economics, and microbiology at MSU. As part of her thesis, Claire is leading a research project analyzing the carbon footprint of refrigerants within her university with the Office of Sustainability. Currently, she is the president of the Science Policy Advocacy Network (SPAN), a student organization advocating for evidence-based decisions in policy, and fostering a culture of academic freedom and scientific integrity. Through SPAN, Claire organized the annual Bozeman March for Science. Additionally, Claire is a Weekend Advocate at Haven, a volunteer advocate and a peer educator at the MSU VOICE Center, empowering survivors of interpersonal violence. In her free time, you can find Claire among the mountains, skiing, climbing, hiking, and enjoying quality chocolate.
Cody McCracken, Chinook, MT
Cody was born and raised in the small town of Chinook, Montana where he attended Chinook High School, home of the Sugarbeeters. He is currently attending college in Montana’s greatest city, Billings, and pursuing a degree in political science. After graduating Cody plans to attend law school. When it comes to the world of politics Cody has been heavily involved his entire adult life. Cody co-founded, along with his good friend Amelia, and was elected president of the MSU-B College democrats. A year later he co-founded, along with another great friend Richard, and was elected president of College Democrats of Montana. He was also appointed to serve as the Mountain-West
regional director for College Democrats of America where he oversees clubs in five states. Cody has also helped a number of our great Montana Democrats working as a press intern for Steve Bullock’s reelection campaign in 2016, a press intern in Jon Tester’s D.C. office, and volunteering for every campaign that has come and gone.
Eleanor Sawyer, Dillon, MT
Elly Sawyer was born in Dillon during a Montana winter and raised by a hodgepodge of hardworking, quirky, and lovable family members. She spent her K-12 years in the Beaverhead County school system, after which she attended college at MSU Bozeman. Her experiences in college sparked a passion for social phenomena, human rights, and trauma. Elly worked as a research assistant to facilitate the creation of a self-care toolkit for first responders, to help them better cope with the often-tragic happenings in their daily professional lives. She also helped a friend develop a student-led organization that fights human trafficking in Bozeman and beyond, focusing on raising conscientious awareness. This organization, The HEART Initiative, is collaborating with the FBI and others to establish a county task force to increase the effectiveness of the recognition and prosecution of human trafficking cases with survivor-centered methods. Elly continues to support and strengthen these efforts.
Garrett Lankford, Great Falls, MT
Garrett (he/him/his) is an enrolled member of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians and a resident of Great Falls. A graduate of MSU-Bozeman, Garrett has spent the last year working as a community organizer for Montana Human Rights Network. During his time with the Network, Garrett has focused on policy engagement during the 2017 Legislative session, immigration reform, and helping preserve Medicaid. Prior to his work with MHRN, Garrett served as the Political Director for the Associated Students of MSU where he helped re-establish working meetings with the Bozeman City Commission and helped organize students during the 2015 Legislative Session. Partnering with Forward Montana – Bozeman, Garrett helped establish on-campus polling locations. Conversation starters for Garrett include political history books, Harry Potter, college basketball, French Bulldogs, racial justice, Real Housewives, and the Oxford Comma.
Grace Price, Billings, MT
I am Grace Price, a high school senior in Billings. I am involved in amnesty club at my school and through amnesty our club raised more than $2000 dollars to fight human trafficking, held voter registration drives for students, volunteered, and brought informative speakers to talk with high school students. I also gave a speech at March For Our Lives in Billings this year, and I am so glad to have been able to share my perspective and be apart of the movement for safer schools. I am also an active volunteer with Forward Montana and love to volunteer in other areas of the community when I can as well!
Haley Cox, Bozeman, MT
Haley is headed into her senior year studying cell biology, neuroscience, biochemistry and genetics at the MSU-Bozeman. For the past four years, she has worked as an advocate for survivors of interpersonal violence at the MSU VOICE Center. Currently, she serves on the Survivor Fund Board and works in Dr. Christa Merzdorf’s developmental biology lab on campus. As the Opinion Editor of the MSU Exponent her sophomore year, she won the Montana Newspaper Association’s “Best Editorial”. She then stepped away from journalism to work as a field organizer for Denise Juneau for Congress and Steve Bullock for Governor. Subsequently, she was elected Vice President of Big Sky Democrats and appointed by Governor Steve Bullock to serve on the Youth Justice Council of the Board of Crime Control. Haley intends to pursue a career in medicine. In her free time, you’ll find her exploring the mountains of Montana on two wheels or making music around a campfire with friends.
Hannah Cubbage, Bozeman, MT
Hannah Cubbage was born and raised in Great Falls, MT. During high school Hannah was an intern for the Bullock campaign, president of the Speech and Debate team, and placed top 80 in the nation in Impromptu Speaking. During high school she earned enough college credits to enroll at Montana State University as a sophomore. During her time at MSU she joined the VOICE center, an office that provides advocacy and resources for those impacted by interpersonal violence, where she served as an advocate, peer educator, and advocate mentor. She double majored in Psychology and Sociology and was an intern for the Bozeman Police Department and the mentoring office in the Psychology Department while serving as a teaching assistant and student fellow. This May she graduated with a double degree and an Honors Baccalaureate. After graduation, she accepted her current position as a dispatcher with University Police at MSU.
Isabel Graff, Missoula, MT
My name is Izzy Graff and I am a senior at the University of Montana. In the fall of 2017 I started Montana’s first chapter of the international organization Best Buddies. We pair college students with adults with intellectual and developmental delays for one on one friendships and group activities. I have also been a big sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Missoula for two years. I am a member of the Alpha Phi sorority and served as their Director of Internal Functions for two semesters. After volunteering with Garden City Harvest for a semester I developed an interest in urban agriculture and food sovereignty, which has grown into a passion that I hope to explore further through service, academia, and activism. I am majoring in English Literature and Women, Gender, and Sexuality studies and hope to attend graduate school next fall.
Isabel Loos, Bozeman, MT
Like many, Isabel was attracted to Montana by the incredible landscapes and stuck around because of the even more incredible community. Coming from Bellingham, WA, she brought her passions for the environment and bringing people together with her. She studied Political Science International Relations and Spanish and graduated from MSU with highest honors in just three years, striving to use her degree to leave a mark on today’s political atmosphere. At the state level, she worked as one of Forward Montana’s 6-Mill Levy Campus Ambassador’s at MSU to encourage Montanans to continue to support affordable and quality education. On a more national level, she is proud to say she was an intern on the Kathleen Williams for Congress campaign–let’s just say the night of the primary election was an exciting one. Her Spanish minor has brought her to places like Spain and Costa Rica and she hopes to continue traveling with her work. In her free time, Isabel can be found knee-deep in powder or scouring the internet for cheap plane tickets.
Jacob Bachmeier, Havre, MT
My name is Jacob Bachmeier and I am excited and honored to be one of Forward Montana’s 25 under 25. I was born and raised in Havre, Montana and I am a student at MSU-Northern. I am currently an education Major, but I am also looking at going into psychology in the long run. I currently serve on several boards in the community, as the Chairperson of the Hill County Democrats, and the youngest legislator in the country. I am passionate about funding public education, fighting for affordable healthcare, and championing social justice. I enjoy spending a lot of time outside and passionately believe in protecting our public lands. Some of my favorite activities include hiking, backpacking, camping, fishing, and shooting. Skateboarding has become a really enjoyable alternative hobby for when I cannot make it out to the mountains. I want to thank my partner, Hannah Pate, for nominating me. You are a hard worker, very determined, and always seek justice. I love you so much and I am excited for our future as young organizers.
Jacob Foster, Missoula, MT
Missoula born and raised, 24-year-old Jacob Foster is a lifelong participant in community outreach. Non-profit work in the professional realm was his next logical step. Jacob joined Montana Conservation Voters in 2014 working to protect voting access, to increase clean and renewable energy alternatives in Montana, and prevent sell-off of public lands in this beautiful state. Jacob currently leads a Deep Canvassing project directed at engaging and persuading Montanans in prioritizing public land protections. While a student at the University of Montana, Jacob organized peer-volunteers in local efforts. They assisted with building a community garden and serving as mentors at Franklin Elementary School. Jacob was elected onto the ASUM Student Body Senate, and also served as Student Group President for UM’s Philosophy Society. In 2017, Jacob graduated with a joint degree in Psychology and Philosophy. When Jacob isn’t working to protect Montana’s outdoor heritage or involved in community outreach, he is likely beekeeping, practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or gardening!
Julie Theis, Bozeman, MT
Julie Theis had a background filled with adversity that pushed her to inspire others and work towards changing the world she lived in. Growing up in and out of the foster care system and experiencing homelessness gave Julie an incredible drive to create power from pain. While putting herself through college, Julie worked as a crisis advocate helping survivors of sexual assault. Julie later went on to graduate with highest honors from Montana State University with a degree in psychology and received numerous awards for her service and scholarship. Julie went on share her gifts of empowerment and change through becoming an entrepreneur and developing her non-profit Dancing for a Purpose which works to increase self-esteem in young girls through dance. At the age of 23 she launched her second business as a trauma recovery specialist helping individuals overcome trauma to reach success.
Kasandra Reddington, Helena, MT
Kasandra Reddington (She/Her), 22, lives in Helena MT. With a passion for higher education she currently works as a tutor with goals to be a professor; Kasandra ran and rebuilt The Retort at MSU-Billings, volunteered with SSS/Trio, was on the MSU-Billings Academic Curriculum Council, and was an ASMSUB for three years. She has put in extensive hours of volunteer service, having many years with the Lions Club International, as well as working with the ACLU, Montana Human RIghts, Trans Law Center, Yellowstone Valley Animal Shelter, 4-H, Pride Foundation, Montana Women Vote, even achieving the rank of Eagle Scout. She has personally worked towards changing things in Montana to be more LGBT+ friendly by advocating for policy change in the university system, helping create an afterschool program for LGBT+ kids, co-creating and managing several support groups, as well as being a member of the Transvisible board.
Lily Miller, Missoula, MT
I love 3 things – hockey, advocating for girls and my little sister. After reading Malala’s book I was sad that some girls could not go to school I started Lily’s Lovebirds to help girls go to school in Nepal and around the world. As captain of my co-ed hockey team I also want to encourage girls to keep playing sports so I started “I-Play” to encourage girls to never stop playing. It has been an honor to be recognized with the Serve Montana Award by the Governor Bullock and recognized by Points of Light, the world’s largest volunteer service organization. My poetry has been published and recognized by Scholastic Writing Awards. I am not sure what I want to be when I grow-up but I do know that I want to continue to encourage girls to be leaders in the world and let kids know that you are never to young to make a difference.
Liz Darnell, Billings, MT
Liz is a Field Organizer in Billings with the Montana Democratic Party working on the Coordinated Campaigned. Her interests in politics began early when she wrote her first letter to President Bush when she was 8 years old about the language used regarding immigration. When the President sent her a letter back that said she should play outside, her world changed and she never stopped writing letters. Eventually, she found out about organizing and found herself through knocking on doors and talking to voters while she was attending the University of Wyoming. She graduated from UW with a BS in mathematics and political science in 2017. When she’s not organizing, you can find her with the love of her life, her rescue dog, Robert, outside in our public lands or just hanging out on her deck in Billings.
Nathalie Wagler, Billings, MT
Since 2016, I served as West High Amnesty International’s lead organizer, planning volunteer events for our members and school-wide education on local issues. I was selected to serve as a volunteer mentor training new volunteers at Yellowstone Valley Animal Shelter summer of 2017 after volunteering there for a year. I have been a volunteer for Planned Parenthood of Montana for the last year advocating for the right to choose and for issue work such as No I-183. After the Parkland shooting, I became involved with March For Our Lives and the School Walkout. I worked as a lead organizer for both events and was a speaker at the March. Since March 2018 I have worked on the Billings FMT team as a fellow and now as a Field Organizer making sure everyone in Yellowstone County is registered to vote!
Nation Garza, Polson, MT
Nation Garza has been involved in organizing work with various groups for the last seven years. He first set foot in the world of organizing when he joined Lighthouse, a homeless outreach based out of Northwest University on the east side of Seattle. After showing his dedication and bringing in new members and fresh ideas, he took over as president, growing the organization from six members to over eighty members. Post-graduation, his service to vulnerable communities continued. He worked in a rural hospital, where he fought for fair treatment of those with mental illnesses. He then moved on to work for Rob Quist, building a coalition of progressive groups in Cascade County. Post-election, he worked with the Montana Public Employees Association, where he fought for better conditions for our public employees. He now works with the Montana Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, helping to elect progressive, compassionate candidates to serve our state.
Riley Hoveland, Bigfork, MT
Riley Hoveland was born and raised in Bigfork. She graduated from Bigfork High School in June 2018 top of her class, and in the fall, she will be attending Harvard University to pursue Government. Captain of BHS’ Speech and Debate Team, Student Body Vice President, and Vice President of National Honor Society, Hoveland spent the summer after graduation as an intern for the Montana Democratic Party in Kalispell. Though she is excited to leave her small village for the big city of Boston, it was Montana that raised her, nurtured her, and made her the strong individual that she is today.
Sydney Ausen, Billings, MT
Sydney was born, raised, and remained in Montana. She grew up on the great reaching plains of Billings, where she loved to hike and climb in the rimrocks with her family. She earned a degree in Political Science and Development Studies from the University of Montana. Before joining the Northern Plains staff in 2016, she worked on a voter registration and civic engagement campaign. At Northern Plains Sydney works with Montanans who dare believe in a fair, inclusive, and sustainable future. Sydney organizes Montanans to make their voices heard on the energy choices that affect their lives, to strengthen democracy, and build upon shared values. Sydney believes that grassroots organizing has the power to bring about a future that is equitable, and loves working with neighbors, community leaders, and activists to build thriving Montana communities.
Terry Bradley, Huntley, MT
Through the involvement of being a LGBTQ Mentor, Sustained Dialogue Moderator, Migrant Education Tutor, and American Indian Council Marketing Director, I have been lucky enough to be engaged on and off campus in various ways. By working extensively with Montana State University’s Diversity & Inclusion Student Commons as their Student Associate for three years, I have developed the skills necessary to become the first ever Student Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the Associated Students of Montana State University where I was responsible for guiding MSU’s student government towards establishing lasting and meaningful programs that promote diversity and inclusion. While I am unsure specifically which field I will specialize in for graduate school, I do know that I want to change the world. As a McNair Scholar and student adviser for the Society of Indigenous Educators, I have recognized my potential and can see nothing but opportunities for myself.
Uma Graham, Bozeman, MT
Uma’s passion for the philosophy of deep ecology led her to found the student organization Thrive On Plants. Her vision is to inspire Montana communities to conserve resources, protect wildlife, improve personal health, and build a resilient future through promoting plant-based diets. Thrive On Plants curates a diverse series of educational events for the community and collaborates with other clubs on campus. Thrive On Plants offers plant-based cooking classes, food sampling events, works with Dining Services, screens documentaries, hosts guest speakers and panel discussions, participates in animal-welfare campaigns, and teaches unique wildlife art classes. These eco-art classes are Uma’s brainchild, merging creativity and zoology to enhance participants understanding of our relationship with nature, catalyzing their compassion in everyday life. Uma is excited to graduate from the Honors College’s Undergraduate DIS Program, where her senior project is launching her eco-art classes into a mission-driven business.