Three of the 24 2023 Bush Fellows will focus on disability-related issues in their upcoming studies. The Bush Fellowship, given by the Bush Foundation annually, is a recognition of extraordinary accomplishments and support for potential. It is an investment in people so that they can make a difference in their communities.
Noel Nix knows from experience that good intentions and ideas are not enough to create lasting change; meaningful action is also necessary. In his positions as a St. Paul City Council aide, Ramsey County Commissioner assistant, and now director of community initiatives for St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, he has advanced comprehensive approaches to community development. He sees that the work to create equitable community change within powerfully entrenched systems takes a tremendous toll on the mental health of people in public service, especially people of color. He believes that the push for changing these systems so that they work better for everyone is inextricably linked to the mental health of those leading the work. He seeks to equip himself with the knowledge and skills to integrate mental health practice into the public sector environment. He will pursue advanced education, build a network of mental health care practitioners who support transformational leaders, and study successful community-based mental health care models.
Farhia Budul embraced her culture, community and faith to achieve recovery. Her experience led her to develop culturally specific recovery support for her fellow East Africans in Minnesota. As one of the first Somali women in Minnesota to openly share her own story, she has become a source of hope and healing for dozens of people. She believes that while people may initiate sobriety in treatment, recovery happens and is sustained in the community. Having battled her own addiction, she understands the pain and isolation that can accompany substance use disorders. She also understands how a more compassionate and inclusive approach can help others facing similar struggles. With her fellowship, Budul will amplify her own story to create greater awareness of addiction, spread hope for recovery, and help eliminate stigma related to the disease. She will engage in transformative learning experiences, access valuable resources, and connect with a diverse network of experts and mentors.
Neerja Singh believes that no public policy decision should be made without authentic community engagement. As a behavioral health leader in the Minnesota Department of Human Services, she wants those most impacted by policies and practices to have an active voice and power in making decisions. She also believes traditional and cultural sources of knowledge must be incorporated into decision-making processes. In her leadership role, she has led the design and implementation of successful programs to respond quickly to pressing community needs. To lead further change in the government sector, and in Minnesota’s mental health and addiction care service delivery system in particular, she will increase her skills in civic engagement and her capacity to initiate community-led reforms. She will learn from mentors who have challenged the status quo and seek training to better understand how to invest in communities that have the greatest needs.