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Jenna Smith awarded Running Strong’s Dreamstarter grant

Jenna Smith, founder of the Dance Maker Performing Arts Academy in Pawhuska, has been awarded a $10,000 Dreamstarter grant.

“Being in a rural community I want to bring ballet and arts to the children where they otherwise wouldn’t be able to have that opportunity,” she said.

The Dreamstarter grant, from Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills’ organization Running Strong for American Indian Youth, is awarded to 10 American Indian leaders under 30 who run non-profits. Ten recipients are selected each year until the year 2020, when five finalists will be selected for $50,000 grants.

Smith, 29, said she plans to teach ballet at local elementary schools to second and third grades during school hours. Her mother, Randy Tinker-Smith, is her required Non-Profit Sponsor for the project and she is also the director of the popular WahZhaZhe: An Osage Ballet. Smith choreographed the ballet.

“I am very excited about using [the grant] to go into the school systems and work with second and third graders for two weeks in Pawhuska, Fairfax, Hominy, Skiatook and teaching them ballet,” Smith said. “The school here [Dance Maker Academy] would help in opportunities of scholarships for those that want to continue.”

Amanda Wamego who works at the Osage Nation’s grant department alerted Smith of the Dreamstarter grant. Smith and her mother worked on the lengthy application process to give full detailed information on what her dreams and goals were for the project.

The idea of teaching at the local schools came to Smith when she was teaching at the Tulsa ballet. They had a similar program and it made her want to do something similar on the Osage reservation.

“Ballet has really made an impact on our students with their confidence and grades and discipline, they are more focused,” Tinker-Smith said. “We want kids to be able to say ‘I took ballet’ even if it was only for a couple of weeks. They will at least have the memory of experiencing it.”


William Mervin “Billy” Mills reached his dreams over fifty years ago when he became an Olympic gold medalist. He won the 10,000 meter run at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and became the only person from the Western hemisphere to win the gold medal in the event.

According to, Mills started the Running Strong for American Indian Youth Organization because he wants the Native youth of today to create stronger communities and to overcome poverty by reaching their dreams to better themselves and their families.

Smith will travel to Washington, D.C. for a week in April where she and her mother will attend the Dreamstarter Academy. They will both attend workshops and be trained for public speaking as well as develop leadership skills in forming a networking opportunity with the other young leaders.

For more Information on Dance Maker Performing Arts Academy call

(918) 704-4668 or visit


Tara Madden

Original Publish Date: 2016-03-10 00:00:00


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