After reviewing over 50 applications, we are excited to introduce to you our six OTA Trailblazers, who will participate in our micro-grant program sponsored by Midco®.

The regional provider of business and residential internet and networking, cable TV, phone and commercial IT services has stepped up to sponsor our second go-around of a mentorship program, which we are calling our OTA Trailblazers. Over the next few months, Midco will work with us hand-in-hand to empower and equip the chosen Trailblazers of our region.

The Trailblazers are:

Nick Engbers of Sioux Falls, South Dakota: As a musician, Nick craves a more meaningful spotlight for the creative community in Sioux Falls across the United States. To get there, he plans to focus on opening and operating a mid-sized music venue for downtown Sioux Falls.

Naomi Even-Aberle of Kyle, South Dakota: Naomi recently took the leap to run a martial arts gym full time and hopes to use the program to leverage arts-based community development. This endeavor will also hopefully provide other outlets for community engagement with students.

Emily Firman Pieper of Flandreau, South Dakota: Emily does it all. While running an art and studio space in Flandreau, she hopes to collaborate with more people in her community to build a rural business incubator that can create more job opportunities for the micro-enterprises and entrepreneurs in her community.

Linsey Prunty of Pipestone, Minnesota: Linsey is a young entrepreneur and farm wife in a rural Minnesota town, and she’s making the absolute most of it. Because she knows what it takes to invigorate an established community that still has potential, she hopes to bridge the gap and connect younger generations with older generations through her work in design.

Peter Strong of Rapid City, South Dakota: Through Racing Magpie, a local art studio in Rapid City, Peter hopes to create access in the arts to all different groups of people. He strives every day to make connections and have people feel seen regardless of cultural or financial restraints.

Kimberly Tilsen-Brave Heart of Rapid City, South Dakota: Kimberly is developing a leadership institute for women and girls in western South Dakota. The fellowship will include self-confidence building, goal setting, travel opportunities and a network of support.

For this second cohort, we sought out creatives from the OTA region who had innovative ideas and a willingness to experiment for the betterment of their community. They blaze their own trail with their community always in mind.

As part of the OTA Trailblazer program, we intend to host OTA conversations in each community our Trailblazers reside. So, in the month of August, we will be hosting dinners in Rapid City, Kyle, Pipestone, Flandreau and Sioux Falls. Those visits will be an opportunity for our Trailblazers to curate a group of people and openly discuss their work and ideas to improve the places they call home.

We also intend to write a feature on each of our participants and will publish their Trailblazer applications as OTA Spotlights. We will encourage them to give us updates on their progress as well, be it stories, photos or video that we will publish on our website.

Each participant will be supported by the OTA team and extended community over the course of three months, culminating at OTA’s final two events in the fall. OTA: Black Hills on Oct. 21 and The OTA Finale on Nov. 12. Both of these events will somehow feature each of our Trailblazers and their ideas alone in the spotlight.

You can read our press release here!

Congratulations to our Trailblazers! We cannot wait to celebrate their work and share their ideas with you, and we thank Midco® for being a great part of this endeavor! Stay tuned, it’s going to be an inspiring, whirlwind of a summer!