MISSOULA – Montana Campus Compact, a 17-campus higher education network that promotes civic and social responsibility, recently awarded its Civic Engagement Scholarship to seven students across the state, including two from Blackfeet Community College.

The scholarship winners were selected from a highly competitive group of 32 applicants for their contributions to community life in Montana and beyond.

“Every applicant is doing exemplary service work and making significant differences in their institutions, communities and the world,” said Kathy Peters, Montana Campus Compact’s office manager.

The scholarships are awarded to current students who have completed a significant community-based service effort while pursuing a degree or certificate. The Civic Engagement Scholarship was awarded to the following students:

  • Gabriel Aponte, Rocky Mountain College, Billings. Aponte is a sophomore with a triple major in business, environmental science and environmental management and policy. As president of the Environmental Club at RMC, Aponte has helped run the campus recycling and BikeRMC programs, raised funds for 10 students to attend the Wildlife Society Conference, and planted trees at Pompeys Pillar National Monument. He also has participated in cleanup efforts at Rimrocks, a site of historical importance to RMC; partnered with students in the Yellowstone Valley Citizens Council; and participated in rallies in Billings to raise awareness about environmental issues.
Dawn Holt

Dawn Holt, Blackfeet Community College, Browning. Holt will receive her associate of arts degree in addictions studies in spring 2017, and she plans to become a licensed addiction counselor. She actively works with individuals recovering from substance abuse; elders; at-risk youth; and the homeless population; and within her community to preserve the Blackfeet way of life.


  • Rachel Juel, Montana State University, Bozeman. Juel is a junior honors student majoring in science and biochemistry. After graduation she plans to volunteer for the Peace Corps as a biology or science teacher, before returning to school to earn a master’s degree and possibly a doctorate. Her volunteer work includes teaching people with disabilities how to ski, sharing her love of science in elementary and high schools throughout Montana through the STEM Space Public Outreach Team, being a group leader for a daylong STEM camp for young girls called Extending Your Horizons, and traveling to Haiti to work alongside locals constructing houses, establishing gardens and assisting in a traveling medical clinic.
  • Chris O’Bleness, University of Montana, Missoula. O’Bleness will graduate from UM’s Doctor of Pharmacy Program in spring 2017. He plans to continue his community service as a practicing pharmacist to medically underserved populations. Throughout college he has volunteered at the Poverello Center and Missoula Food Bank. For three years he served at the crisis center at UM, and as student director of Advocates for Non-Violence, he worked to raise awareness about violence and assault, and was a guest speaker at the 2015 Not in Our State Sexual Assault Summit.
  • Emily Schaff, Rocky Mountain College, Billings. Schaff is a junior majoring in communications studies with minors in business management and organizational leadership. She has been a volunteer for the Office of Community Engagement and the Office of Spiritual Life on campus. Through these campus offices she has created many volunteer opportunities for her peers, as well as participated in them. These events include Halloween for Hunger and No Kid Hungry campus campaigns, and fundraising efforts for local elementary schools. Through the Montana Special Olympics she created a campus Special Olympics club and a Respect Rally to help raise awareness about the harms of using derogatory terms.
  • Ashlin Staso, UM, Missoula. Staso will graduate in spring 2017 with a bachelor of science degree in exercise science, health and human performance. She plans to continue her education by attending graduate school and eventually wants to become a physician assistant. Staso has volunteered in children’s after-school programs and served as a peer mentor to incoming freshmen through the Davidson Honors College. She traveled to Antigua, Guatemala, to participate in a number of service projects, including building homes for poor families and visiting with children at a local orphanage. She also has volunteered as a camp counselor for children with muscular dystrophy, and has volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Missoula for several years. She also was elected as a student representative to attend the National Student Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C.
Amber Williamson

Amber Williamson, Blackfeet Community College, Browning. Williamson will graduate in spring 2017 with an associate of arts degree in social work and plans to continue pursuing her social work degree at UM. Williamson’s volunteer work has been with late- and end-stage cancer patients, domestic violence issues, suicide prevention and addiction reduction. Once she receives her bachelor’s degree in social work, she plans to move back to her home to continue serving her community in these same areas.

For more information about Montana Campus Compact and its programs and initiatives, click HERE.