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Meet MSPC's 2024 Sawtooth Leadership Academy class

Updated: May 10

The Sawtooth Leadership Academy is a project of Mountain States Policy Center. The yearly, limited enrollment and no-cost program is dedicated to broadening the perspectives of emerging young minds in the principles of free markets, civics, and civility. High school and college applicants are selected each year to participate in six courses, both in-person and virtually. Each participant will complete an approved study to be published by Mountain States Policy Center and featured at MSPC's gala dinner events. At least one student will receive a $5,000 scholarship.

The 2024 class features six students.

Sindhu Surapaneni


Sindhu Surapaneni is a vibrant cultural enthusiast and budding entrepreneur who has been fostering her passions since a tender age. With a diverse array of talents, including storytelling, TEDx speaking, art instruction, Bollywood dance instruction, and henna artistry, Sindhu has made a remarkable impact at just 14 years old. Amidst the challenges of the pandemic, Sindhu took the initiative to provide over 400 free art sessions, reaching children worldwide through online platforms. Her entrepreneurial spirit led her to donate over $22,000 to local charities, supporting low-income families in her community.


As the founder and president of Imaginations2Creation, a non-profit dedicated to spreading positivity through art, Sindhu has successfully implemented projects promoting inclusion in schools and organizations across multiple states. Beyond her creative pursuits, Sindhu dedicates her time to tutoring math, teaching Bollywood dance, and engaging in philanthropic endeavors, such as providing bedding, pajamas, and warm clothing to those in need.

Recognized for her outstanding contributions, Sindhu has garnered numerous accolades, including being crowned Miss Spokane Valley 2024 and receiving prestigious awards like the Gold Presidential Volunteer Service Award and the Social Advocacy Award. Her story has been featured extensively in local and international media, inspiring others to join her mission of making a difference through compassion and creativity.

Jonas Yengst


Jonas Yengst, a freshman at The Ambrose Bridge School, epitomizes versatility and ambition. Balancing his interests in the stock market, project work, and soccer, Jonas seamlessly integrates his passions into his daily routine. Whether he's trading stocks in the morning, refereeing soccer matches in the afternoon, or delving into Roman History, Jonas approaches each endeavor with enthusiasm and dedication.


With aspirations of entrepreneurship and legislative involvement, Jonas envisions a future where he can contribute to his community through volunteer work and establish his own investment company. Despite being far from his California roots, soccer remains a constant source of joy and motivation for Jonas, serving as a reminder of the rewards of perseverance and hard work.


Christopher Sheftic


Christopher Sheftic, a freshman at Moscow High School, stands out as a scholar and leader in his community. His academic achievements, coupled with his active involvement in extracurricular activities like Business Professionals of America and National History Day, underscore his commitment to excellence and learning.


Having lived in various states due to his father's military service, Christopher has embraced opportunities to engage with diverse communities and pursue his interests, such as running his own lawn mowing business and participating in math competitions. Looking ahead, Christopher looks forward to continuing his academic journey at Lake City High School and exploring his passions for cars, basketball, and economics.


Avery Nichols


Avery Nichols, a driven 14-year-old from Meridian, Idaho, embodies a spirit of service and dedication to his community. Through his involvement in student government, legislative campaigns, and volunteer work, Avery has demonstrated a strong commitment to making a positive impact in the lives of others.


With a diverse range of interests, including reading, woodworking, and playing guitar, Avery is not only passionate about personal growth but also actively engages in local politics and anti-vaping advocacy. As a certified community trainer for CATCH My Breath, Avery is poised to educate and empower younger generations to make healthy choices.

Joseph Fruehauf


Joseph Fruehauf, a graduating student with a Bachelor's in Political Science and Financial Economics from Northwest Nazarene University, is driven by a desire to serve his community and advocate for free enterprise and liberty. Through his work at a public affairs and consulting firm in Boise, Joseph channels his passion for business and public service into meaningful contributions to society.


With ambitions to pursue a career as a Business Analyst or Management Analyst, Joseph aims to leverage his skills and knowledge to effect positive change in the realms of law and politics. Grounded in his Christian values, Joseph is committed to upholding principles of integrity and empowerment in all his endeavors.


Madison Schmidt


Madison Schmidt, a junior at Boise State University, is a dedicated student with a passion for political science and a keen interest in public policy. Originally from San Diego, Madison's move to Idaho sparked her enthusiasm for community engagement and advocacy.


Currently serving as a lobbying intern, Madison is actively involved in shaping policies related to education, health, welfare, and housing, with a steadfast commitment to improving the lives of Idahoans. Inspired by her experiences, Madison aspires to pursue a career in lobbying or government, where she can continue to advocate for positive change and community welfare.

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