Our members come from across the country with diverse backgrounds. We have members who have just graduated high school or college, are changing careers, or are looking for ways to give back to their community during retirement. Meet some of our current and past members.
2016-2017 JFM Members
Robert Belle is a 2-term AmeriCorps member at the Self-Help Law Center in Kalispell, MT. The Self-Help Law Center is designed to help clients get access to legal information and forms. Rob's first term confirmed for him his desire to go to law school and become an attorney. His advice to new members is "Buckle Up." Robert says, "the greatest benefit is when we can give our clients the tools to take control of their lives. When we can give people a little space from their troubles, when we can give people confidence to solve their own problems, we are actually giving them a tremendous gift. When we do that, we are giving people freedom. I love my freedom and that conditions are available for me to enjoy it. Being able to offer that to others—or at least try—has proven to be very satisfying."
Going back to last year, Robert wanted to be a JFM AmeriCorps member because he wanted to take pride in applying his skills for the benefit of others. In his life he wants nothing less than to take his skills and ambition as far as they will go for the most benefit.
Shelby Brelig joined AmeriCorps shortly after graduating from the University of Connecticut with a degree in Environmental studies. As a Justice for Montanans member, Shelby serves as an intake and outreach specialist with Montana Legal Services in Helena. For her, AmeriCorps offered the opportunity to serve in a community in order to make a difference. MLSA provides legal services to low-income people throughout Montana. Shelby focuses on client intake, pro bono program support, and providing services at the front desk. Serving in the community gives Shelby a sense of hope and restores her faith in humanity if temporarily lost. She wants to make the world a better place for every living organism.
Dawn Cowan received her Bachelor's degree and MPA in Public Administration from the University of Arizon. Dawn also completed US Air Force Technical School. She performed personnel function for 6 years in the USAF Reserves for over 100 members. Dawn sees the opportunity to serve as a JFM AmeriCorps as a means to relocate, network, and start a new career in a different field. She took a position with the Attorney General's Office of Consumer Protection and Victim Services. There, she will be assisting consumers with scams, fradulent business practices, End-of-Life Registry, and the Address Confidentiality Program. Dawn has lived with a pay it forward motto. She strives to level the playing field and her daily involvement revolves around just trying to do what's right.
In the past, Dawn has served in India. She became interested in the hardships that often plague women and children. She would like to see more successful programs that build self-esteem and job skills in women, which in turn would benefit their children. This midset gets Dawn geared up for her term with Justice for Montanans.
Yvonne Johnson is serving with MLSA in Billings. Yvonne's motivation for applying to serve as a JFM was a direct result of her previous position as an AmeriCorps Poverty VISTA that served in Red Lodge Montana. She saw first-hand how powerless and confused many of the people in the community were. Her next step was continuing her passion for empowering low-income families and after reviewing MLSA's mission, vision, and services, she knew that MLSA would be the perfect fit. Yvonne will get to serve with an attorney on specific cases, providing direct client services, interact with case management, and help clients with public benefits.
Since its inception in 2009, Justice for Montanans has hosted many incredible AmeriCorps members who have gone on to do great things. Many of our members continue their education at the end of their term, and JFM alums are currently attending law school at Harvard, Berkley, American University, UC Hastings, the University of Washington and the University of Montana. Other members have gone on to careers in the nonprofit sector and others continue to serve their communities in new and exciting ways. Here is how JFM impacted some of our previous members.
Nolan Harris joined the Justice for Montanans Program and served two terms in the Helena Self Help Law Center after graduating from Montana-Western in 2013. During his two AmeriCorps terms in the Court Help Program, Nolan directly assisted hundreds of Montanans by providing forms, resources, or referrals to other community and state resources; helped administer a pro bono clinic in Helena for the 1st Judicial District Pro Bono Committee; participated in AmeriCorps community events and served Montanan veterans at stand downs; and helped promote program longevity by compiling information for the Court Help Program’s performance measurements. Following AmeriCorps, Nolan utilized the Segal Education Award that is earned after each AmeriCorps term to pursue his Master’s of Public Administration, which he now uses as the Court Help Program Administrator.
Alex Clark graduated from the University of Montana in 2014 with majors in history and philosophy and a minor in Latin American Studies. Having earned the Paul Lauren Human Rights Scholarship in 2013, Alex is fortunate to have found a career path in advancing the cause of equal dignity and rights for everyone through 2 years of service as a Justice for Montanans AmeriCorps Member. As a JFM (2014-2016), Alex coordinated MLSA’s bankruptcy program and then later the Western Montana Bar Association Pro Bono Program.
Alex continues to empower low income Montanans as an MLSA staff member focusing on community outreach and client education. In the future, Alex looks forward to a more perfect justice system shaped through the efforts of a generation of JFMs who carry with them every day the pledge to get things done for America.
Mēghan Flanary graduated from the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne Indiana in 2012 with a major in Sociology, concentrating in Criminology and Social Justice. Not using her degree and wanting to move she started to research the Peace Corps and then happened upon AmeriCorps. She took a position with the Office of Consumer Protection and Victim Services in Helena Montana.
Mēghan was able to help with several state-wide projects while serving 2 terms as an AmeriCorps member, including: Montana's End-of-Life Registry, Address Confidentiality Program, Fatality Review Committee, and the Access to Justice Forum that happens once every 10 years.
While serving, Mēghan participated in Grandstreet theater productions and sang in the Helena Symphony Chorale. She is now the AmeriCorps Coordinator with the Justice for Montanans Program and still enjoys Getting Things Done.
Meet Jenna Eliel, a JFM alum that served with Montana Legal Services!