The Forward Montana Foundation has named two young activists from Bigfork and Polson to their “25 under 25” list.
Riley Hoveland of Bigfork and Nation Garza of Polson are among the 25 Montanans under the age of 25 who are paving the way in advocacy and leadership in their communities. The foundation received more than 50 nominations. Each honoree will receive a stipend to further their activism work.
The award celebrates Pat and Carol Williams’ legacy of leadership during their tenure as legislators and educators.
Winning the award affirms that the work youth are doing is being recognized, according to Hoveland and 2017 award winner Hannah Pate, who nominated her.
“It’s so great to be nominated and so great to win,” Hoveland, 17, said. “It was so unexpected.”
According to the Forward Montana Foundation, the nonprofit works to educate, organize and engage young people in the political process in order to improve the lives of Montanans. Their work focuses on voter registration and mobilization, leadership development and advocacy in the areas of economic justice, conservation, election reform and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning equality.
Hoveland graduated from Bigfork High School with a 4.0 GPA in June. During her high school career she was student body vice president, captain of the speech and debate team and vice president of the school’s chapter of the National Honor Society. In March, she organized and participated in the National School Walkout where students in schools around the valley honored the 17 people killed in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in February.
This summer, she’s interned for U.S. Sen. Jon Tester’s campaign, spending between five to 30 hours a week canvassing and operating the phone bank.
“I learned how much it takes for someone to win — how much behind-the-scenes work it takes in politics — and how truly important it is that people are involved. The most important thing is voters talking to voters,” Hoveland said, noting the effectiveness of knocking on doors and talking with people in person.
While her goal is to see Tester win, she said it is very important that voters cast their ballots, whomever they select.
In the coming weeks Hoveland heads to Harvard University to begin her freshman year. She intends to study government.
Garza, 25, currently works with the Montana Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.
According to www.forwardmontanafoundation.org, Garza has spent the past seven years working with organizations to advocate for vulnerable populations and issues such homelessness, mental illness, working conditions, in addition to serving on political campaigns.
The 25 under 25 award winners will be recognized in Helena on Sept. 15.
Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.