2021 25 Under 25 Awards
Nominations for 2021 25 Under 25 Awardees are now closed.
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. This weekend is hosted in honor of the legacy of Carol and Pat Williams. The Williams Effect (TWE) weekend is meant to celebrate the Williams’ years of public service mirroring the efforts they took to lift up the voices, accomplishments, and experiences of young people in Montana. During this annual event, FMF honors 25 young Montanans across the state who are working within their communities to make our state a better, more equitable place.
A group of independent Montanans from across the state chose the award recipients 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.
We are so excited to introduce this year’s 25 Under 25 Awardees! Past recipients of 25U25 have gone on to work in nonprofit fields, run for office, work on political campaigns, and change the dang world!
Check out our amazing 2021 Awardees below, then buy your tickets for the celebration at Bogert Park in Bozeman on September 17th!
Frances Carrasco | she/her/hers
Frances Carrasco and is a recent graduate of Corvallis High School. During high school she played competitive hockey and soccer. She was all state in both of these sports by her senior year, and they taught her the importance of working as a team. Early in high school she recognized that she had a strong passion for service and fighting for marginalized groups. She was in her school’s service club and went to many leadership camps, including the Rotary Youth Leadership Award and Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership. It was going to Peru to teach empowerment to women that she realized she could create a larger change in her community and the world.
She plans on heading to Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles next school year as an undeclared major. She is focusing on social justice and political science classes and one day hopes to become an immigration lawyer. She wants to give immigrants a voice, because many times theirs is silenced. What she has learned thus far is that there are people in communities all across our country that are interested in service, community, and change. She has a great deal to learn about being an effective leader, and being around others that share her passion will magnify what she will learn in her classes. While at school she hopes to join many clubs and a recreational hockey team. She also wants to learn to surf and spend a lot of time at the beach.
Carlee Baker | she/her/they
Currently residing in Helena, Carlee is a communications professional with the Montana Federation of Public Employees and has degrees in English and political science from Montana State University. She has also spent time working and volunteering with Forward Montana, the Human Rights Campaign, and the Montana AFL-CIO.
With an eye toward developing further scholarship in the area of activist communications, Carlee was recently accepted to Oregon State University to complete their Master’s degree in Rhetoric and Composition and was extended a Provost’s Scholarship to continue her research into contentious political rhetoric.
Chloe Runs Behind | they/them
Chloe Runs Behind is Filipino and Northern Arapaho artist and non-binary librarian-in-training dreaming of a world beyond capitalism & colonialism. Since arriving in Montana in 2018, they have organized with groups including Black & Pink, the 1700 for Liberation, Queers 4 Queers, Seedlings 4 Solidarity, and the MT Youth Action Board while completing their undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies at the University of Montana.
Chloe currently works at the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library and with the MT Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project. They will be forever grateful for and inspired by the artists and organizers in Missoula that have guided, supported, and dreamt of better futures with them!
Eliza Donahue | she/her/hers
Eliza traces her interest in environmental justice back to her childhood in northern New Mexico, growing up on ancestral Pueblo lands and close to the home of the nuclear bomb. After some time off after high school, she started university at Hampshire College in Western Massachusetts, hoping to study sustainable farming.
She moved to Montana in 2017 as a transfer student at MSU Bozeman, where she created her own course of study focusing on environmental justice & Native American studies. While at MSU she was heavily involved in the outdoor program and also worked as a tutor for the writing center. Since graduating, Eliza went on to work for Montana Wilderness School and Forward Montana, and has enjoyed getting more involved in the community outside of the university.
Brooke Bothner | she/her/hers
Brooke is a daughter, a sister, a friend. She is a student, an optimist, an adventurer. She wears many titles, but above all, she is herself. She is about to begin her senior year at Bozeman High School. At school she takes every class that she possibly can — her excitement for learning is insatiable. Her favorite subjects include: history, psychology, journalism, French, and English. As of right now, she hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in international relations, economics, or behavioral studies (possibly a combination of all three!).
She is keeping an open mind and is ready to follow a new academic path if the opportunity presents itself. She is team captain and a varsity competitor on her school’s speech and debate team, and she has ranked in the top 60 nationally two consecutive years in Extemporaneous Speaking. She also participates in statewide Model United Nations and Academic World Quest competitions that have fueled her passion for international relations. She is the Vice President for the BHS Key Club, where they annually organize a Thanksgiving food drive that brings in thousands of pounds of food for their local food bank. She is co-founder and president of the Hawks Outdoors club at BHS. She also competes as a varsity racer on the local mountain bike team. Recently she decided to expand her athletic repertoire, so now she Nordic skis with a local team year round too!
If Brooke is not studying for school, or participating in an extracurricular, you can find her: curled up in a cozy chair with a book and some tea; out on an outdoor adventure climbing mountains and swimming in lakes with friends and family; or else patting together flaky dough into scone shaped lumps in her kitchen. The older she gets, the more she realizes that Montana is a very special place. The fact that she has been lucky enough to grow up in a state like Montana fills her with gratitude every day.
Jana Richter | she/they
Jana Richter is passionate about poetry and public health. Originally from St. Louis, they graduated from Loyola University Chicago before moving to Billings, MT in 2019 as an AmeriCorps Vista for the Native American Development Corporation to work with urban Indigenous communities in town. Throughout their time in Billings, they’ve worked in health education and outreach, COVID-19 response, community organizing and environmental advocacy, among other passion projects.
In their free time, Jana enjoys creative writing and mixed-media art, hiking and mountain biking, gardening, and deep conversations about existentialism. They are also deeply fascinated by insects, epidemiology, and anything else that makes you squirm. You can find a piece of Jana’s concrete soul plastered in the South Side of Billings, and the rest of them scattered in the wind and waterways of the Magic City.
Jana wants to acknowledge and thank the many leaders in their community who have inspired and mentored them during their time here, including Shane de Leon, Leonard Smith, Mary Walks Over Ice, Jackie Lloyd-Randolfi, Ava Shearer, Cathy Grott, Greg Neill, Lisa Harmon, Nell Eby, Julie and Louisa Schultz, Gus Belotta, and their partner Julia Maxon, among countless other friends and peers they love and respect so dearly. We are nothing without our community. BIPOC Lives Matter.
Jeremy Runnels | he/him/his
Jeremy was born in Simferopol, Ukraine, and adopted by an American family. He was raised in the south, primarily in Oklahoma, until he moved up to Montana in 2016. Since moving to Montana, he’s built a perfect life for himself. When Jeremy made it to Kalispell, he was homeless, sleeping in his old van. He found a good paying job, got himself a dog, and got his first car loan last year.
What got Jeremy working more with local politics was the loss in November, when he immediately got in touch with the Central Committee in the Flathead to figure out what he could do to help. He was tired of doing nothing, tired of just arguing on social media, and he wanted to do something that further moved along the Dems cause. He’s been volunteering his time with the Flathead Dems since!
Marguerite (Margo) Gaillard | she/they
Margo is a 20-year old born & raised in Bozeman. She is studying Environmental Studies and Art at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, and is passionate about social and environmental justice.
They can be found reading in any of Bozeman’s parks, getting into the outdoors, and giggling with friends (often over a cup of tea). Margo has never been on a rollercoaster, and strives to learn all of the lyrics to the songs in Mamma Mia by the end of her life.
Anaya Paschal | she/her/hers
Anaya likes to read, do research on topics that she finds interesting, make sure young people are registered to vote (FMF plug!), and take as many classes as possible to get her degree faster.
Keaton Sunchild | he/him/his
In 2018, Keaton ran for state legislature as a senior in High School in Great Falls, wanting to bring change to Helena. Since then he has worked on numerous campaigns, and currently serves as the Political Director for Western Native Voice. He is currently attending law school at the University of Oregon.
Emily LaShelle | she/they
Emily is a queer organizer born and raised in Bozeman. She was originally politicized around the climate crisis that she watched burn down her state every summer and dropped out of her first year in college to organize full time with the Sunrise Movement for a Green New Deal. That was their first political home and where they were mentored as a facilitator and curriculum writer and trained several thousand young people nation wide in organizing skills and around 500 trainers.
During the Pandemic, Emily choose to move back to Bozeman and localize their work to fight for their home state. After the uprisings in 2020 she helped launch Bozeman United for Racial Justice to absorb the momentum generated from the 6,000 person rally to use structure based and momentum organizing to create long term change for social and economic justice in Bozeman. Emily’s greatest passions are learning lessons from other movements and doing capacity building work for leaders in the movement. She wants to create strong communities of people who know how to organize for their self interest and towards collective liberation.
Although Emily is not a part of the church anymore, their evangelical upbringing has informed a lot of the ways they’ve organized and they will always be grateful for that. Emily wants to create a home in Bozeman where her nibblings, friends, and community can feel safe and thrive. They love reading, watching the Bachelor, sharing dinner with her housemates, baking bread, and rollerblading.
Julia Maxon | she/her/hers
Julia Maxon was born and raised in small, rural communities throughout the west. Growing up in a family of eight that lived paycheck to paycheck, she developed a deep sense of fairness and equity from an early age. In August of 2014, she moved to Missoula to attend the University of Montana and studied Community Health. It was there that she started to get more involved in local activism and advocacy efforts and volunteer with campus groups like Planned Parenthood Generation Action.
Throughout 2017, Julia was an intern for Planned Parenthood of Montana’s Teen Council and Patient Advocacy program, later becoming a Missoula Field Organizer after completing her degree in May of 2018. In the winter of 2019, she moved across the state to start her new role as the Billings Community Organizer, and currently works there as Planned Parenthood of Montana’s Lead Grassroots Organizer.
Julia assists in leading local and statewide advocacy efforts, and feels passionately about the intersections of art and activism, racial equity, youth civic engagement, reproductive justice, and LGBTQ2S+ rights. Julia is an Aquarius sun, Cancer moon, Leo rising and finds joy in riding her bike, rafting with her family, making art, in her beloved Billings community, and volunteering at her local community garden with her partner, Jana.
Jaksyn Dimmer | he/him/his
Currently, Jaksyn is a student at Linderman Education Center in Kalispell, Montana, where he stands as the Genders and Sexualities Alliance Director, alongside the Student Council President. In his life, Jaksyn has advocated for the rights of any oppressed people. He enjoys volunteering his time to help fight for other minority groups because he believes in giving without the expectation of getting something in return.
He is a gay man who likes to adventure with his life partner. These adventures include but are not limited to; kayaking, camping, backpacking, bike riding, hiking, and so much more. Jaksyn isn’t too sure what he wants to do in his future, but he believes that he would enjoy eventually becoming a federal house representative to make all the minority groups around him have a platform for their voices to be heard.
Jacob Torgerson | he/him/his
Jacob is an urban Native American who grew up in a working-class blue-collar family of 7. He was born and raised in Montana and is a product of Helena’s public schools, as well as an active organizer in the Helena community. He has seen the issues facing everyday Montanans because he is one.
Jacob is a service industry employee, but his roots are in childcare and small business, so he understands the key role childcare plays in our economy. Jacob is focused on building a sustainable workforce for the future of our state—that means fighting for a Montana with universal childcare, affordable housing, and a tax code that is focused on rebuilding the middle class and small business after COVID-19.
Scout McMahon | she/her/hers
Scout McMahon is a senior in high school at Flathead High. At 17 years old, she is one of three chairs for Montana Youth Action, a youth-run nonprofit, volunteers with Forward Montana, and has organized multiple activities within her community for civic engagement such as having middle schoolers write to their state representatives. She loves her state, loves learning and teaching about local government, and hopes to do so much more with it in her future!
Jessica Brito | she/her/hers
Jessica Brito is a senior studying Psychology and History and is committed to improving MSU and the state of Montana. During her freshman year, she co-founded Crescent Montana, a state- and federally-recognized 501(c)(3) non-profit and MSU Student Organization dedicated to providing free menstrual hygiene products and reproductive health education to Montana schools.
She served as the vice president of the MSU Black Student Union where she organizes and presents in BSU events throughout the year, and has worked diligently to help create an Africana Studies Program and the BIPOC Action Plan so students like her have the resources to learn and thrive at MSU.
Riley Luna Ford | she/her/hers
Riley Luna is a 17 year old senior attending Cottonwood Agile Learning Center in Helena, and she is incredibly motivated to change Montana for the better. Through her political activism, including being a fellow for the Steve Bullock for Senate campaign and an intern for the Montana Democrats, she is every day learning more and more about the people of Montana.
She is also very involved with various non-profits, including Montana Youth Action, Bridge to Literacy, and Foward Montana, and quite enjoys writing political pieces for different magazines. She also loves to participate in rally’s and ceremonies, giving speeches and showing her ever-continuing support for the causes she so strongly believes in.
Katie Fire Thunder | she/her/hers
After seeing the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous women and girls in Montana, Katie became an activist. At 19, after graduating from Bozeman High, she interned for the Kamala Harris Presidential Campaign to create a conversation about Indigenous issues during the presidential primary.
After her internship, she moved back to Bozeman to attend Montana State University and take what she learned from her internship to better her community. She has since worked for MT Dems for the 2020 election, and is currently working with Bozeman United For Racial Justice. She hopes to continue to bring voice to the issues Indigenous people disproportionately face, along with bring justice and accountability for Indigenous women not only in Montana but around the country.
Marina Bradley | they/them/theirs
Marina is a Latin, Jewish, gender non-conforming youth here in Montana, and let them tell you- it’s not exactly easy. They sometimes feel like their diversity is just a box to check for organizations and employers, but they do their best to break that trend when they can.
They work for the Getting Better Foundation as an administrative assistant, the Park County Public Library as an intern, and for Montana Youth Action as chair of communications. In their free time, they love to read, collect frogs, and fence.
Morgan Solonar | she/her/hers
Morgan has lived in Montana (specifically Missoula) her whole life, and is dedicated to making it a better place for future generations. She received a BFA in Acting from the University of Montana, and has done two professional tours with Montana Repertory Theatre, one in China, and one around the US.
She enjoys hiking, rollerskating, dancing, laughing, hanging out with her little Italian Greyhound dog, eating at least 2 cauliflower crust pizzas a week and having the most amount of fun she can.
Mayuri Singh | she/her/hers
Mayuri is a senior at Montana State University, dual majoring in Chemical Engineering and Biological Engineering. During her time in Montana she has been passionately invested in addressing equity and inclusion issues at MSU and in the greater Bozeman community. She has served as a student leader on the BIPOC Action Planning Committee at MSU, the MSU Diversity Council, a Student Director of Honors Presents and as ASMSU’s Director of Diversity & Inclusion.
She works as a undergraduate research assistant in Dr. Stephanie McCalla’s lab studying disease diagnostics. She has been recognized with by the Undergraduate Scholars Program, an Honors College Dean’s Excellence Scholarship, an Award for Excellence, and The PCOSUW’s Achievement Award.
Lauryn Tecca | she/her/hers
Lauryn is a history and political science student at the University of Montana. She previously attended MSUB, where she was the president of the history club and a member of Phi Alpha Theta. She would love to get involved in Public Policy or Montana politics at some point in her career. She also tries to stay active in coaching/judging high school speech and debate, as it was something she loved as a student.
She spends a lot of time reading and learning as much as she can. She loves to read about Montana history. (Her current read is Fire and Brimstone). Her favorite outside activity is hiking and she takes her dog as much as she possibly can. She loves being outside, especially in the fall when the trees start to change.
Lotus Porte-Moyel | she/her/hers
Lotus Porte-Moyel is a rising Senior at Cottonwood ALC in Helena. Freshman year, 2019 25 under 25 awardee, Isaac Nehring asked her to join Montana Youth Action. After witnessing how amazing non-profit work can be, she started connecting with other organizations across the state and nationally, including Montana Nonprofit Association, Montana Human Rights Network, Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, Greenville Youth Alliance, Epic Theatre Ensemble, The Steve Bullock Campaign, and of course Forward Montana Foundation! Through these organizations Lotus has made friends, interned, ZOOM called, emailed, hosted events, phone banked, and more.
No matter where she goes after high school, Lotus hopes to continue making connections and learning from people who are into making their communities a more equitable place.
Melodie Snyder | she/her/hers
Melodie is originally from Washington State. She moved to Billings, MT in 2017 to attend Rocky Mountain College. There she was involved in various clubs and leadership roles including Stand Up RMC, Rocktivities, Hunger and Homelessness Coordinator, Americorp, Orientation Team Lead and more various activities. She really enjoys helping people and staying involved in the community. She volunteered at Planned Parenthood throughout her college career and interned at Forward Montana. She worked as the Assistant Manager at Chalet Market Downtown for a year after she graduated in 2020. She helped them start the business during the middle of the pandemic.
She recently left to pursue a full time job as the Technical Assistant at Northern Plains Resource Council. She is beyond happy to work for NPRC. Working for a nonprofit has been her dream and she is happy to say that she has been able to get her job at such a young age. She plans to continue putting herself out there and volunteering with Forward Montana, Planned Parenthood and any other organization that is doing great work in Montana.
Olivia Bulis | she/her/hers
Olivia Bulis is a student from Bozeman, a small but progressive town in Montana. As Olivia got older, venturing outside of her small town she was presented with issues that she had been sheltered from. Following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting in 2018, Olivia witnessed young folks using their voice to stand up for what they believed in and was inspired to become an organizer in the local March for Our Lives Campaign. This marked the advent of Olivia’s engagement in advocacy work.
In the last two years, Olivia was voted Vice President of Project X2+ (Bozeman High School’s intersectional feminism club), recently joined Montana Youth Action’s board, and is an educator for Bridgercare, Bozeman’s reproductive health care clinic and HAVEN, Gallatin County’s domestic violence prevention organization. She also serves on the Bozeman School District’s Equity Advisory Committee, and is helping to guide the City of Bozeman on their Equity Indicators Project.
Olivia’s passion for international relations, policy and economics has continued to grow with her participation in speech and debate. This past year she won the State Tournament in Extemporaneous Speaking, and is excited to serve as team captain for her senior year. Olivia continues to educate herself on current events and global policy, advocates for inclusivity and equity, and continues to strive towards a better future for generations to come.