FARGO - Applying for a 2017 Bush Fellowship changed Robin David's life.

The Grand Forks woman made it to the finals that year but did not win. She said the experience forced her to "think bigger" about the change she wanted to affect in her community.

Thinking bigger paid off for her this year.

David, along with Jenn Faul of Fargo, was among the 24 2018 Bush Fellows announced Tuesday, March 20. The Bush Fellowship provides winners with up to $100,000 over 12 to 24 months to pursue learning experiences that help them develop leadership skills and attributes.

"I thought I was thinking pretty big, but my sense of the possible has definitely opened up through this process," David said.

This was the first try for Faul, even though she had been encouraged to apply for years by her mentor, state Sen. Tim Mathern, D-Fargo.

Mathern, director of public policy for Prairie St. John's Hospital in Fargo, kept leaving Faul, the hospital's chief operating officer, Bush Fellowship cards with the tagline "Are you ready?"

"I felt like this year I could do it. I had time I could dedicate to it," she said.

Faul's area of interest is changing how children learn about mental health.

She became especially interested in mental health as it relates to early education after participating in a study commissioned by the North Dakota Legislature in 2013. Conducted by Schulte Consulting of Iowa, the report revealed where mental health resources were lacking in the state, including in the state's schools.

For example, families in rural communities often struggle with the time commitment and distance they must travel to bring their children to a mental health professional. Faul would like to see mental health education and resources available in schools.

She said she'll likely use her fellowship dollars to enroll in a doctorate program in educational leadership.

David will use her funds to further her education as well. Her area of interest is refugee resettlement.

As associate director of the University of North Dakota's Honors Program, she first became involved with the refugee community when she reached out to a resettlement coordinator for information about service learning projects for her students. What she found was a strong need in the community for long-term integration programs.

Ten years ago, she founded the Global Friends Coalition, a nonprofit organization that works with new Americans to help them acclimate to life here. The organization provides mentors, tutors and citizenship classes, and helps new Americans connect to community resources and events.

David said it's also important to educate the broader community. "We recognize integration isn't just a matter of helping new Americans to be able to become more like residents who have lived here all their lives, but also providing opportunities for native-born Americans and the broader community to be able to understand, learn from and interact with their newest neighbors."

David said she'll use her funds to pursue programs in community organizing and public leadership.

The Bush Fellowship is open to applicants age 24 or older who live in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and 23 American Indian nations sharing the same geography. The program attracted 751 applicants in 2018.