2017 Palmer Award Recipient

We are excited to present to you our most recent recipient of the Palmer Award, Mitchell Tijerina (Denison University). The vision Mitchell created at the Institute centered around developing an interest in the affects of climate change and environmental issues by providing opportunities for people to experience nature first-hand. Through this exposure, he believes people will develop a sense of love and respect for the environment. Mitchell shares that “…a vague passionate idea at the Institute helped me bring into a sharp well-focused vision.”

Mitchell sees that without a personal experience, people are unlikely to cultivate a love for the outdoors or come to truly care about the well-being of it. To combat this barrier and bring exposure to the importance of Earth, Mitchell is creating a documentary film called La Gente de la Tierra.

La Gente de la Tierra focuses on the influence that the natural world has on the art, culture, and spirituality of five indigenous groups across Perú. Through this film, Mitchell hopes that people will discover how our day-to-day lives are intricately connected to the earth.

In preparation for the documentary, Mitchell applied for scholarships, developed a Kickstarter campaign, and assembled a team. He then spent four months living in Lima, Perú. During his time in Lima, Mitchell spent time studying as well as connecting with NGOs and indigenous communities across the country. He then spent two months traveling, filming, conducting interviews, and living with the amazing people in the area.

Through all of this, Mitchell tell us he “mastered the Spanish language, different editing programs, and film equipment through taking classes at La Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú.” He also invited two other filmmakers from Denison University and Saint Olaf College respectively to join the effort and employed the help of a number of local translators to help with the 6 different languages they worked with.


Beyond an awareness of and care for the environment that the documentary hopes to create, Mitchell’s work has also directly contributed to some communities in Perú. He and his team have created a promotional video for Porvenir Perú, an organization that provides greenhouse building supplies to communities that often lack in nutrition due to vegetables being unable to grow at the extremely high altitude. They are also working on promotional videos for the Ayahuasca Foundation, which focuses on medicinal plant knowledge, and Threads of Perú, an organization that promotes and sells artisanal work of indigenous women in the Andes.

While we wait for the documentary to be completed, the trailer and update videos are being shown by science high school teachers in New York. Mitchell is hopeful that they will soon be shown in high schools in Columbus. The final product will be aired this spring at Denison University and at a local community theater in Columbus.

Mitchell shares that, although long and difficult, the journey has been worth it. We have to agree and can’t wait to see the documentary in its totality. Congratulations Mitchell!

Palmer Award: Finalists (Part 3)

A highlight of our work at LeaderShape is learning about the contributions that LeaderShapers are making in their communities and for the world. Each year, when reviewing the applications for the annual Palmer Award, we have the privilege of doing just that.

We recently announced Felix Hartmann as this year’s recipientand shared the work of some of the award finalists. Now we’d like to introduce to the final two Palmer Award finalists:

Phoebe Lockhart imagines “a world in which all women are legally, socially, and phoebe-lockhart-mv-pictureeducationally empowered and free from the snares of human trafficking.” And she has been working to understand and fight against the issues of human trafficking through her time as a student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, volunteer opportunities, and a social justice fellowship.

Through Phoebe’s research, which examined sex trafficking in North Dakota specifically, she has come to learn more about socioeconomic and political factors that contribute to the demand for prostitution and supply of trafficking victims. She has also created “policy suggestions for legislators in North Dakota to combat the influx of sex trafficking” and “identified three statutory reforms that would increase penalties for purchasers of sex and provide support and protection for victims.” Phoebe has also given presentations and has been published in her university’s Women and Gender Studies Journal.

Beyond spending her time on research, Phoebe is a volunteer with the YWCA Lincoln, planning events that empower women and serving as the organization’s student board member. She participated in the Mount Vernon Leadership Fellows program, developing a social just capstone focusing on “increasing women’s access to the civil justice system by improving the state’s pro-bono infrastructure.” Phoebe also volunteers at the Nebraska State Bar Association’s Volunteer Lawyers Project.


danielle-oreilly-visionDanielle O’Reilly, and Institute graduate from the San Francisco Bay Consortium session of the Institute, is working to raise awareness about dating violence and provide resources to survivors. This cause is particularly important to Danielle because it is personal. You can learn more about her story in an interview conducted by a peer from the Institute.

Through a campus organization she founded, Penguins for Peace (the school mascot in a penguin), Danielle has been able to introduce the campus community to issues related to dating violence through efforts such as a Sexual Assault Awareness Week and a viewing of “The Hunting Ground”, a film which discusses the mishandling of sexual assault cases. A partnership with the Center for Domestic Peace was also crucial to her efforts.

Danielle writes that attending the Institute helped her to regain her “passion for raising awareness about healthy relationships.” The experience also gave her to the tools to turn her dream and vision into a reality “in the form of Penguins for Peace.”

Learn more about our other Palmer Award finalists here:
Finalists Part 2
Finalists Part 1
Award Recipient

Palmer Award: Finalists (Part 2)

A highlight of our work at LeaderShape is learning about the contributions that LeaderShapers are making in their communities and for the world. Each year, when reviewing the applications for the annual Palmer Award, we have the privilege of doing just that.

We recently announced Felix Hartmann as this year’s recipient and shared the work of some of the award finalists. We’re excited to share the work of two more of the six Palmer Award finalists:

Noble Dwarika, Institute graduate from the University of California-San Diego, wants to “stretch the parameter of self-expression and beauty”, imagining a world where people can see “beauty in a wide spectrum antithetical to a mainstream perspective.” Through Noble’s vision young black and brown kids, as well as adults, would be empowered to see themselves as equally beautiful.fb_img_1475868488180

In response to this call, Noble has created his own small business, Noble Expressions, designing clothing with elements from the African Diaspora and his experiences with fashion abroad. Noble shares that the most gratifying part of Noble Expressions is that his friends and community members can see themselves represented in his work.

You can be inspired yourself by checking out some of Noble’s designs on Instagram.

From Florida State University, Rayne Alicia Neunie is committed to access to safe and healthy environments for women delivering children, specifically in low-income countries, with the ultimate goal of decreasing infant and maternal mortality rates.

In the year since Rayne participated in the Institute, she has kept active seeking hands-on learning opportunities to support her vision. In the Spring, she volunteered at a hospital, gaining valuable first-hand experience of what it is like to work in a health-care facility. After receiving Florida State University’s Global Scholars Program, she traveled to Kenya to work with the Kuria Development Community for the Marginalized (KDCM). Rayne was able to understand more thoroughly about the resources and training needed at the health facilities she visited. This knowledge, combined with her hospital volunteer experience, helped Rayne to develop the “Mother’s Care Program.” This program trained tradition birth attendants and provided them with kits containing basic medical supplies needed for emergency deliveries.

Rayne has goals of becoming a registered midwife and to continue to support KDCM by donating supplies to their health facilities.