New Bush Fellows announced; projects have disability focus

One of the 2022 Bush Foundation Fellows is a leader in Minnesota’s deaf community. Others have ties to disability-related programs. […]

Raina Johnson headshot

One of the 2022 Bush Foundation Fellows is a leader in Minnesota’s deaf community. Others have ties to disability-related programs. Fellows are a group of individuals whose remarkable vision and drive are transforming communities in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and the 23 Native nations in those states. 

Woodbury resident Raina Johnson is one of the fellows announced this spring. 

Johnson is focused on building opportunities for the diverse deaf community. She grew up with multiple identities: adopted, Korean and deaf, raised by white deaf parents. Johnson’s background makes her keenly aware of the disparities in language rights, education and services for deaf people of color. 

She wants to discover the multiple ways that diverse deaf people use their experiences to create, shift or shape meaning in their use of American Sign Language (ASL). She will advocate for policies that train more people in the justice, social services and education systems in culturally rich and nuanced ASL. 

Her plans include pursuing a doctoral program dedicated to training deaf researchers in linguistic, community and leadership work. She will also expand her national network of BIPOC deaf leaders. 

Other fellows have ties to disability services and issues. Pahoua Yang is a vice president of community mental health and wellness at the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation in St. Paul. Wilder is the largest regional mental health provider for Southeast Asian communities. Yang will explore how traditional healing can intersect with modern healthcare.  

Comfort Dondo seeks to establish culturally specific mental health healing services and substance abuse support to address what she believes is an invisible epidemic in the African community. To bring cultural healing to greater numbers of women in her community, she will build a pool of therapists and coaches who understand the unique challenges of child sexual abuse and gender-based violence toward African immigrant women. She will complete her doctorate in psychology and family therapy 

Kaltun Abdikarani plans to pursue certificate in Islamic psychology, develop resources and training for teachers and parents of Muslim-American youth and collaborate with spiritual leaders and mental health professionals, with the goal of cultivating wellness in a culturally responsive way. 

“Every year, the Fellows inspire us with their immense talent and even bigger ideas to make the region work better for everyone,” said Damon Shoholm, grantmaking director for the Bush Foundation. “We’re thankful for the opportunity to support their growth as leaders and their bold thinking to create large-scale change.” 

The Bush Fellowship provides Fellows with up to $100,000 over 12 to 24 months to pursue education and learning experiences that help people develop the skills and relationships to foster large-scale change in their communities and region. This year, 468 people applied for the Bush Fellowship.