Five years ago, KRTV anchor Shannon Newth started the "Five Under 35" awards as a way to encourage the community through recognizing those whose attitudes and actions are helping Great Falls grow and improve. As journalists, we want to be part of facilitating change and finding solutions for community issues, one of those being attracting and retaining young professionals.
More than 70 nominations were received for the 2018 awards. A committee narrowed the nominees down to the final five who not only are doing great things, but also have an infectious spirit and positive attitude about living and working in Great Falls.
Along with sharing the recipient’s story, we also asked each winner what they think Great Falls is doing well, and what are areas of improvement when it comes to the young adult population. You’ll read their responses in each story.
Our first recipient is described as selfless, with infectious energy by those who nominated her.
“I love my job,” exclaimed 2018 Five Under 35 winner Barbara Bessette. “I go out in the community and I try to raise awareness about substance use issues, specifically alcohol, and marijuana, and help schools kinda of put into place maybe if they want to do some kind of alcohol curriculum that’s evidence based.”
The 33-year-old is a Substance Use Prevention Specialist for Great Falls non-profit Gateway Community Services, and has worked in various facets of prevention for 13 years.
“It is hard, but I think it’s really rewarding,” explained Barbara.
It’s a job that’s about culture shift and changing thoughts and habits overtime.
“It’s one of those things that’s really hard to explain, and it’s not really tangible, you look over 10 years, 20 years of data, and you’re like, 'Ok I made a difference.' It’s not something that’s right here, it’s in the future. And I love it. I have a lot of passion for it.”
One example of her work is with Great Falls College MSU during Red Ribbon Week to raise awareness about substance use disorders.
Her community involvement extends beyond her normal job hours. Barbara is involved in the Cascade County DUI Task Force, Substance Abuse Prevention Alliance, Get Fit Great Falls, Great Falls Community Police Foundation, Northern Rodeo Association, and has worked for North 40 for years.
When she isn’t at work, she can often be found in the arena, barrel racing.
As a runner, Barbara thinks one of the things Great Falls has going for it is the River’s Edge Trail. She also appreciates the University of Providence’s role in the community.
“I really like how they’re (University of Providence) expanding a lot of those things, and they really want to grow. And that’s going to bring a younger, college population,” said Barbara.
Barbara said she feels Great Falls can improve by encouraging young adults to get involved.
“When young people feel like they have a voice, they’re more apt to stay there and make those changes.”
Barbara Bessette, one of KRTV’s Five Under 35.