For her work on harm
reduction in Blackfeet Country, Christie Farmer earned the
Montana Student Volunteer Award from Governor Steve Bullock.
"My biggest message is that we do recover, so I hope to give others
the courage to change and to let them know there is hope," said
Christie Farmer, one of this year's winners of the Montana Student
Volunteer Award. Having just learned of her winning the statewide
honor, she said, "I'm having tears of happiness because the hard
work is paying off and I'm really grateful for everything that's
been happening to me."
Readers of the Glacier Reporter may recall a story in the Oct.
28 edition that featured one of Farmer's collaborative projects
with artist Jesse DesRosier that put a mural on the outer walls
of the Glenn Heavy Runner Pool in Browning. That project was the
first of many planned aimed at encouraging community wellness and
preventing drug abuse.
Now a second-year student at Blackfeet Community College (BCC),
Farmer will graduate this spring with an Associate's degree in addiction
studies. After graduation, she plans to work with BCC's 2+2 program
for a four-year undergraduate degree in social work. She's made
the President's List two of her three semesters, but her educational
story is more complex.
Christie dropped out of high school when she became pregnant with
her first child; however, she worked hard to earn her GED and had
her diploma around the same time she would have graduated. Then
her life took a turn for the worse.
"I've worked all my life, but I got in trouble," she said. "I started
using drugs and I lost my freedom I lost my whole life really."
The life experience landed her into an extensive treatment program
that changed things for the better.
"When I came back I wanted to help people like me," she said. "I
couldn't relate to people at first except people with a similar
experience. I was scared walking through those doors at BCC, but
now I've come a long way from where I was."
Her studies at BCC helped her understand not only her own situation,
but also how she was aided in treatment. "It kind of opened my eyes
to what was going on," she said. "I could see what was used on me
and what was effective."
Her renewed interest in her field of study led to an internship
with the Northern Rockies Tribal Leadership Council, which in turn
put her into creating projects aimed at drug prevention through
BCC's Public Health Workforce Expansion in Indian Country (PHWEIC)
grant. "It's a grant for reservation community colleges for public
health projects and how we can come into the community and the changes
we can make through the colleges and interns," Farmer said.
The mural at the Heavy Runner Pool was the first such project,
but the pandemic got in the way of moving forward after that.
"I've been participating in Tribal programs for ideas for community
projects, and I'm working on a couple projects and getting another
student for the PHWEIC grant," she said. The goal of such projects
is harm reduction, she said, and she sees things like needles, hepatitis-c
and likely HIV as problems to be solved.
"I'm trying to find a way to get something going for the community,"
she said, and is networking with Tribal and state leaders in harm
reduction to provide services not currently available at Blackfeet
As for her award from Governor Steve Bullock, she said, "I'm pretty
excited, and it's really shocking. I'm coming up on five years of
sobriety. It's been great. It was hard, but it was worth it."