25 Under 25 Award Ceremony
Each year Forward Montana Foundation highlights 25 Montanans under the age of 25 that are shaping Montana through their work, their vision, and their perseverance in honor of Pat & Carol Williams.
We invite you to nominate a young Montanan in your life that you feel is deserving of this honor.
All nominees must reside in Montana and be 25 years old or younger on September 21st, 2020.
Nominations will be open until May 15th. Those nominated will be invited to apply to be one of Montana’s 25 Under 25 and a group of independent Montanans from across the state will choose the 25 Under 25.
All winners must be nominated and submit an application to be considered. We also invite young Montanans to self-nominate. Find the nomination form here.
Winners will be selected based on the following criteria:
—> Belief in Montana: They love Montana, but they also understand that it will take all of our collective talents to make it an even better place. They are constantly trying to make themselves better. They are diligent about sharing their passions and building power with their friends and neighbors.
—> Caring a lot: Whether it’s about one issue or a thousand issues, they care a lot. They are dedicated to making their community a better place and are proud of the impact they’ve made on their community.
—> FMT attitude: Though they don’t take themselves too seriously, they understand that change takes hard work. When it comes to the issues they stand for they won’t take no for an answer. They work hard to find creative solutions and aren’t afraid to make mistakes.
Check out the 2019 Awardees below.
Abigail is a fourth generation Montanan who is passionate about politics, especially in Big Sky Country. She has worked for a number of standout Democrats: as a staff assistant in the office of Governor Steve Bullock, calltime manager for Grant Kier, and Deputy Finance Director for Kathleen Williams. After the 2018 cycle she moved to Chicago, where she is currently the Manager of Fundraising Accounts for The 1833 Group, a Chicago-based consulting firm working to elect Democrats across the country. Abby is an alumnus of Capital High School in Helena and Rocky Mountain College in Billings. She completed The Fund for American Studies’ Institute on Economics and International Affairs at George Mason University, and has interned with the Dominican University Archives, and We Are Not Numbers, a Palestinian youth journalism project. She was born and raised in Helena, where the rest of her family lives – she is grateful for the support and constant encouragement from her parents and siblings.
Alix started off as an intern for Forward Montana in the Spring of 2018, instilling a sense of urgency upon Montana State University students when it came to the topic of voting and how important it is to voice your concerns within a community. She then went on later that year to canvass with Jon Testers campaign during the 2018 election in Great Falls. She contacted a multitude of voters through canvassing and calling to make sure that regardless of who they were voting for, that they were making their vote count. In the Fall of 2018, she became one of the lead organizers for Forward Montana and the Forward Montana Foundation, helping to host a public forum and leading a Student Voter Day event on MSU’s campus. She aims to inspire those around her to get out and vote and to try and change their communities for the better.
Idaho born and Bozeman raised, Dani Daley is happiest in the mountains. She is headed into her final year at Montana State University and will graduate with degrees in Economics and Political Science. Currently, she has the honor of serving as the Senior Associate of the MSU Leadership Institute and works as a business development and data analyst with the local startup, MyVillage. She has spent her academic career conducting research on all things related to gender-based economic equality, synonymously serving as the Executive Assistant of the Montana Racial Equity Project and working to bring the United Nation’s CEDAW Treaty to Bozeman. This past spring she was named a national finalist for the Truman Foundation Scholarship. During her time off she can be found on her mountain bike, camping out the back of her fiance’s truck, and buying overpriced toys for their dog.
Emma is a senior at MSU combining political science, economics, and sociology and pursues a career in human rights. She is the director of The HEART Initiative to educate and combat human trafficking and serves as the co-chair of the Prevention Committee of the Gallatin County Human Trafficking Task Force. Emma’s senior thesis examines human rights in supply chains, with a focus on universities. She works as a Peer Educator Mentor at the MSU VOICE Center and presents on topics related to sexual assault and relationship violence. As chair of the Survivor Fund, she provides financial resources for individuals impacted by interpersonal violence. Emma is an Adobe Student Ambassador to promote digital literacy. The past two years, she worked with people experiencing homelessness at the Warming Center with the belief everyone deserves a warm and safe place to sleep. She is part of the Public History Lab’s Project Solidarity to preserve and make accessible the histories of Salvadoran refugees and their international networks during the country’s civil war in the 1980s. Emma is excited to continue collaborating and inspiring action to create change.
Hannah Johnson was born and raised in Clancy, and decided to continue her education at Helena College. During her time at HC, she was extremely active on campus and served in numerous leadership roles. Some of the most notable roles included President of the Associated Students of Helena College, and Vice President of TRIO Club. Because of her personal history as a first-generation and transfer student, Hannah dedicated countless hours to better serve underrepresented students on the campus and state-wide levels. After graduating with her Associates, she will be attending the University of Montana and majoring in biology with a concentration in Human Biological Sciences. When she is not studying, you can find Hannah spending time outdoors or playing with her two dogs, Ollie and Ophelia.
Living in the capital has given Isaac so many great activism opportunities. He started out in Helena Youth Against Gun Violence – organizing the march, walkouts, and representing middle school voices. Most recently for HYAGV, he’s testified on their bill sponsored by Rep. Moffie Funk, calling for more public access to gun safety education. However, the first bill he testified on was sponsored by Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell, which had the goal of appropriating more resources for mental health. Since then, he’s met with Forward Montana’s Deputy Director, as well as Democratic legislators, to begin work on his current project: Montana Youth Action. Isaac believes younger voices need to be heard by local lawmakers and is working on organizing youth to testify, show support, and write their own bills. Legislative action is so important in making real change happen, and he wants the torch to be passed in order to make progress.
Jaeger Held, 18, grew up on a ranch in Powder River County, Montana, and since age 8, has volunteered hundreds of hours at the Powder River Historical Museum and on behalf of the Montana Historical Society. As the Historian of the Montana Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, he has acquired headstones for U.S. soldiers buried in unmarked graves across Montana and is the co-author of a 527-page report for the American Battlefield Protection Program of the National Park Service on the Battle of Powder River of March 17, 1876. He is a trustee of the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame and served as a legislative aide and page for the Montana Legislature in 2017 and 2019. He has studied at Harvard University, Montana State University-Billings, and Rocky Mountain College and is attending Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania with a major in History and minor in Civil War Era Studies
Jamie Baird originally moved to Bozeman to study at Montana State University. They graduated this May with a Bachelor’s Degree in statistics. Jamie is passionate about using statistics and mathematics as a toolset to quantitatively explore and explain the world, and during their time at MSU, they extended this passion into their activism. During their time at MSU, Jamie served as the president of the Queer Straight Alliance, an ASMSU Senator At Large, and most recently as the ASMSU Student Director of Diversity and Inclusion. Jamie helped host charity drag shows, create a strong and supportive community for marginalized LGBTQ+ students, and implement policy representative of MSU’s diverse student body. Jamie is most proud of their work organizing the 2nd Annual Diversity Symposium at MSU, which featured 13 presentations, a keynote speaker, a student art exhibition, a film screening, and attendees from across the state.
Jessica Hays is a conceptual photographer, alternative process printmaker, and curator from Bozeman, Montana. Her work focuses on human relationship, issues of mental health, loneliness, trauma, loss, and places of healing. She works in a variety of processes, including historic and alternative photo processes, experimental darkroom techniques, pigment printing, and handmade artist books. Hays has bachelor’s degrees in Photography and Liberal Studies with a minor in Psychology from Montana State University. Her work has been shown both regionally and nationally, often alongside resources and mental health information. Hays has lectured on topics of mental health and alternative process photography at conferences and art openings, and she is represented by Old Main Gallery in Bozeman, MT.
Jocelyn Waggoner, a junior at Montana State University, embraces leadership, innovation, and problem-solving. Originally from Alaska, she started an organization, Socially Active Youth Vocalizing Empowerment (SAYVE) to address some of Alaska’s largest issues facing young people, by providing healthy outlets through art, music, and activism. She was recognized as Alaska Spirit of Youth honoree. At MSU she is pursuing a dual degree in Cell Biology and Neuroscience, and Political Science, with a minor in genetics. Currently, she is working as an intern for Forward Montana and in Dr. Christa Merzdorf’s developmental biology lab. She also serves on the ASMSU judicial council and was the only Montana student selected to attend the diversity in leadership conference at Harvard Kennedy School. Jocelyn is adamantly passionate about health care access and mental health awareness and resolution. In her free time, she thrives outdoors, through skiing, backpacking, and white water kayaking, and is engulfed in the mountains. She is humbled to be honored as a recipient of this award.
Raised in Billings, Josiah Porcel acquired a love for all things politics after watching a skinny kid with a funny name become president and an encouraging conversation with a seven fingered senator at his elementary school. Working for the Montana Democratic Party as an organizer in 2014, 2016, and 2018 Josiah has fought tooth and nail for expanding opportunities for young Montanan’s no matter their race, religion, sexual orientation, or area code. Josiah is the campaign manager of a city council race in Billings and is working to help elect a group of young diverse leaders onto the council. In his free time, you can find Josiah digging through record crates for vinyl, looking for used bookstores, and trail running on our public lands.
Originally from Massachusetts, Kaleigh was an Honors student and Boren Scholar recipient at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.A. in Political Science and a minor in Chinese. After graduating college, she knew she wanted to be a positive force in the civic and communal landscape. She found her calling in Montana serving as the AmeriCorps VISTA with The Montana Racial Equity Project as it was an opportunity for her to use her studied knowledge and lived experience. For the past year, Kaleigh has advocated for racial equity and justice for all historically marginalized, disenfranchised and oppressed peoples. She trained hundreds of fellow Montanans on how to be racially literate and more importantly, anti-racist. She is now currently pursuing a Dual Master’s Degree at Brandeis University in Conflict Resolution and International Law and Human Rights.
Kennedy moved to Butte in the summer of 2018 after graduating from Princeton University with a degree in American history. She joined the 2018 Coordinated Campaign and worked out of a field office in historic Uptown Butte. Over the course of the campaign she came to love Butte’s various neighborhoods, unique history, and strong sense of community and felt called to work in economic development. After the election, Kennedy worked in the Montana Legislature as the budget staffer for the House Minority caucus where she gained an appreciation for state government and state finances. Kennedy currently works for the Montana Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee and will be attending the London School of Economics in the 2018-2019 school year to pursue a masters in Local Economic Development. After she graduates she hopes to work fostering sustainable and hyperlocal development in economically blighted communities across the country.
Lyla Brown is senior at Montana State University study Criminology with minors in Psychology and Women and Gender Sexuality Studies. She co-founded and is the president of the Black Student Union with Black Student Union Vice President and close friend Jamelle Phillips in February of 2018. She is a member of the Queer Straight Alliance and the F-Word club which is the feminist club on her campus. Lyla’s proudest accomplishment in college is helping to create a safe space for the Black students on her campus to come and discuss current and historical issues facing the Black community. Similarly, she is excited to see the younger leaders in the Black Student Union start taking on leadership roles and start making change that they want to see on campus. With her involvement with the Black Student Union, Lyla has been able to educate members of the club as well as the community through educational presentations.
Marcell Bruski was raised as any good Ekalaka kiddo; building fences for local famers and ranchers. At the age of 18 she moved to Billings, Montana and completed her undergraduate degree in Business Administration. Truly embodying Rocky Mountain College’s mission of cultivating future leaders, Bruski transitioned an internship with the Billings Chamber into a full- time role managing, messaging and supporting the further development of their youth leadership and young professionals’ programs. She currently works as the Marketing and Outreach Program Manager for Big Sky Economic Development where she’s committed to elevating projects in her community. Over the past three years she’s built a reputation of elevating programs, herself and those around her. She serves on the Montana’s Young Professionals’ Summit Board, is an active member in NextGEN, is found on nearly every community outreach effort and has spearheaded strategic placemaking initiatives reminding her peers why they’re better off in billings.
Maria Vega is an enrolled member of the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana. Currently, she is pursuing her Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing from Montana State University and works part-time as a Certified Nurse’s Aide. Maria is a Founding Member of the Fort Peck Tribal Youth Council and founded the Miss and Junior Miss Fort Peck Scholarship Pageant. She continues her work with the Suicide Reduction Committee with the State of Montana and is a proud member of the Annual Creators Game in Poplar, Montana which was also named “Tribal Best Practice.” Aside from her academics, she continues to work with the youth through motivational speaking in various conferences, powwows, and schooling events. In addition to her passion for volunteerism, Maria has signed with a modeling and acting agency.
Meshayla is the Program, Events, and Outreach Coordinator for the Montana Racial Equity Project, the only black lead non-profit in the state. She graduated from the University of Montana with a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and African- American Studies. As the President of the 3rd oldest Black Student Union in the nation, she organized the first-ever Black Solidarity Summit and brought together BSU members from around the Northwest to address the needs of the black student population at their respective universities. Energetic and service focused she has facilitated countless anti-racism trainings, and through events like FUBU (For Us, By Us) she has created POC centered spaces abling people to connect with one another and spark change in their communities. Meshayla works tirelessly to promote political, social, and cultural awareness, foster community, and empower the voices of the most marginalized people in Montana.
Micah McFeely is a recent graduate of Montana State University with a B.S. in Economics, a statistics minor, and an honors baccalaureate of highest distinction. Harnessing the power of dialogue and community engagement, Micah strives to be an advocate for justice and equity across social identities such as race, gender, citizenship, sexual identity, and more. During her last semester of college, Micah worked full-time as the program manager for the Diversity & Inclusion Student Commons at MSU. During her college-career, she served as Student Body Vice-President, a Resident Advisor, an MSU Voice Center Advocate and Peer Educator, a Safe Zone Project Facilitator, a Sustained Dialogue Moderator, and an international buddy program president and leader. Micah starts every day with black coffee, constantly listens to music, often eats her crust before her pizza, and loves every dried fruit and chocolate combination she can think of.
Michael Peter is originally from Circle and comes from a farm and ranch family. An MSU-Northern alumnus, Michael holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Agricultural Operations and an Associate’s Degree in Business. Michael is the Director of the Food and Agriculture Development Center at Bear Paw Development in Havre. His mission is to assist producers and agricultural entrepreneurs in starting and expanding their value-added operations, including beginning farmers and ranchers. He is a member of many agricultural policy organizations including Montana Farmers Union, Montana Farm Bureau, Montana Stockgrowers, and United States Cattleman’s Association. He has worked to influence policy affecting the agriculture industry at the state and federal level. In his off time, he likes to hunt, fish, and explore the natural beauty Montana has to offer.
Norris is entering MSU as a Presidential Scholar, double majoring in industrial engineering and economics.He worked his way up with leadership roles in high school, serving as his school’s first ever two-term student body president, two-term captain of speech and debate team, and captain of both varsity soccer and varsity tennis. He served as Governor of 2018 Montana Boys State, and represented Montana at Boys Nation. Norris finished high school as Valedictorian and National AP Scholar. He was state champion in the 2019 Federal Reserve Economics Challenge. He enjoys public speaking, earning a state championship in the American Legion Oratorical and an All-State Award in Speech and Debate. He is most proud of his service work. He served as co-founder and president of Bruins Help Bruins, a school club that provides support to fellow students in need. He also served as president of National Honor Society, coordinating service efforts.
Quincey is the Project and Outreach Coordinator of the Madison River Foundation, a non-profit conservation organization located in Ennis. Through advocacy on social media and digital platforms, Quincey has engaged rural Montanans in policy that affects the environment such as Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and the ongoing recreation plan for the Madison River. Quincey has coordinated restoration projects on the Madison, Montana’s most heavily fished river, to enhance the resource for the mutual benefit of wildlife and people for generations to come. Prior to working for the Foundation, Quincey served a Big Sky Watershed Corps term with the Wildlife Conservation Society where she worked to provide the public with tools to reduce human-bear conflicts in southwest Montana and inform the community on how to keep people safe and bears wild as human populations grow and bears recover and expand.
This year more than any other, Sierra was able to be involved in amazing organizations and events that gave her the opportunity to learn and grow. This past Fall, she presented on the history and importance of Black hair at DiverseU at the University of Montana. Doing this presentation allowed her to continue to present on the topic at MSU Northern, a local LGBTQ+ youth group, and the University of Montana’s Black Solidarity Summit. Other highlights include work that Sierra has been able to do with EmpowerMT. This organization has been instrumental in her growth as a leader, giving her opportunities to MC for the MLK Day Community event, help facilitate Diversity Day, lead workshops in local schools and organizations, and co-facilitate a racial justice coalition. Sierra will forever be grateful for EmpowerMT and the opportunities they have given her to work in social and racial justice
Taylor Blossom is a fourth-year student at Montana State University majoring in chemical engineering and economics. He is currently serving as an intern for Governor Steve Bullock’s presidential campaign, and will return to Bozeman in the fall to serve his second term as Student Body President. In his first term as president, Taylor is proud to have expanded public transportation, diversity, and election transparency in student government. Prior to this role, he was heavily involved in a variety of clubs at MSU, including Engineers Without Borders, the Science Policy Advocacy Network, and College Democrats. He has also worked and volunteered for several Montana democratic campaigns and is passionate about getting Dark Money out of politics. Taylor is planning on going to graduate school to study law and economics. In his free time, he enjoys exploring Montana’s mountains on his mountain bike, climbing, skiing, and trail running.
Thomas grew up in Helena, where he spent his childhood hiking in the Elkhorn Mountains and helping out at his mom’s coffee shop. After high school, he attended Brown University, where he graduated with a degree in International Relations. Thomas worked with the Montana Democratic Party off and on throughout his college years, and joined the Party as a full-time staffer in 2017. Thomas later worked on Senator Tester’s 2018 re-election campaign as Deputy Political Director. In that role, he planned events across the state and worked to engage voters in rural Montana. Thomas currently lives in Billings, where he works as Senator Tester’s field representative serving Eastern Montana. He spends his free time hiking, biking, and crisscrossing the state in his 2006 Toyota.
Tim Osen, also known by their Drag persona, Iowa Caucus, is an MSU student and Bozeman local. Through their involvement as a student leader in the MSU Queer Straight Alliance and membership with organizations like the Countship of the ISCSM, Tim has helped establish, promote and improve events with LGBTQ inclusion and celebration in mind.