Heidi’s life experiences as a sixth-generation non-Indigenous Montanan led her to pursue a life of creating positive change in individuals and institutions. Heidi is alumni of the University of Montana, where she was honored in 2010 with the Native American Studies Distinguished Alumni Award. Heidi has served as EmpowerMT’s Executive Director since 2013 and is a certified Diversity and Inclusion leader through Cornell University. A skilled facilitator, consultant, and educator Heidi has a 20-year history of building strategic partnerships regionally and nationally to foster innovation, elevate leadership, and inspire action in the areas of racial equity, diversity, access, inclusion, and coalition building. Heidi serves on the Board of Trustees for the PacificSource Foundation for Health Improvement and other social justice-focused coalitions, advisory boards, & committees.
Pronouns: she/her/hers or they/them/theirs
Brooke has over 40 years of business creation, development, management, hiring, training, and team building experience. She has been a one on one coach, facilitator, and skill building educator for over 29 years. Brooke is a ‘Montana Certified Mediator’, holds a special ‘Family Certified’ designation, and is a proud past Board Member of The Montana Mediation Association. Brooke was a facilitator and trainer for the National Coalition Building Institute from 1999 until 2010, and co-directed the NCBI University of Montana Campus Chapter for two years. She earned her BSW, with honors, from the University of Montana, with an emphasis in communication, multicultural counseling, neuropsychology and forgiveness and reconciliation. Brooke is also a SHRM Senior Certified Professional offering Human Resource consulting and problem solving. She is SUPER excited to be a part of the EmpowerMT Team!
My name’s Samantha Veneski, and I received my Bachelor’s Degree in International Political Science and Sociology, as well as a minor in American Sign Language and French at Flagler College in Saint Augustine FL. Born in the Bronx and raised in the Hudson Valley, I’ve experienced an array of different cultures but none as community-oriented as Missoula. Growing up as a first-generation college student, college and the world of academia was not an easy transition. Throughout high school and college, I’ve devoted myself to my passion to help people and connect with people in an honest way that sometimes can be lost in translation. Whether it be music workshops in children’s homes, volunteering with Big Brothers, Big Sisters, helping others who were born bilingual and are also struggling with English, or simply volunteering with eldercare. After serving as EmpowerMT’s AmeriCorps VISTA from July 2020-July 2021 I was accepted to the Law School at the University of Montana. My goal in law school is to continue fighting for social justice and helping to give a voice and a fighting chance for those who don’t have it. While I attend law school I’m continuing to work at EmpowerMT as their Social Media Manager, using my creative talents and my previous VISTA work to keep EmpowerMT’s social media timely, equitable, and engaging.
Sierra has lived in Missoula for thirteen years and got involved with EmpowerMT when she was receiving her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work and Minor in African-American Studies. Serving as both a practicum student and racial justice intern for the 2018/2019 academic year, Sierra was able to use her passion for social and racial justice to connect further with the Missoula community. While she moved to Portland,OR after graduation, she has now moved back to Missoula and is excited to work with EmpowerMT again!
Harper Kushner is pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and Communication Studies, as well as a minor in American History at the University of Montana. Born in Germany and raised in Montana and Australia, Harper is passionate about the pursuit of social justice and equality to support minorities and at-risk populations. He has been part of EmpowerMT since 2010 when he helped establish Youth Forward to support queer youth in Missoula and its surrounding areas. He enjoys learning, walking his dog, and spending time with his partner and cats.
Josephine Lange is a senior studying at the University of Montana, getting her degree in Social Work with a minor in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies as well as a minor in Wilderness Studies. She is also working towards getting her certification in Licensed Addiction Counseling. Josephine was born and raised in the Bitterroot Valley in Montana and has also been interested in working in social justice. Josephine has also been very passionate about helping people. Her goal is to work and counsel youth and young adults who are experiencing mental health disorders and substance use disorders using motivational interviewing techniques. Josephine is very excited about working with EmpowerMT this year. When she is not working or going to school, she enjoys hiking skiing, seeing live music, going to the farmers market with friends, and visiting her family.
My name is Sage Plumage, I am in my senior year at the University of Montana, majoring in Social work with a minor in psychology. Born in Havre MT, and raised in Missoula, I am Nakoda and Salish. My passion is to help people through social justice and equality in schools and the community. I am excited to be doing my practicum with EmpowerMT and learning how to better help the communities I am involved in. Outside of school and work I am a member of the University of Montana Pacific Islanders club, I enjoy hiking and doing new things with friends.