GREAT FALLS — Out of 75 nominations, this year's "Five Under 35" honorees have been selected. Our third honoree of 2021 is Tony Forster. From the classroom to church and athletic fields, his life is centered around helping teens and kids: “It’s a joy just working with kids and putting a smile on their faces with when can. That’s kind of the main thing,” he said.
The 35-year-old Great Falls native is helping shape the next generation through mentorship. Part of Forster’s hours are spent as a tutor at Paris Gibson Education Center. “Giving students rides to and from school, deliver food baskets when needed, take kids to appointments when needed and help kids academically as much as I possibly can,” Forster explained.
His positive influence on students extends beyond the classroom. He’s also an assistant football coach at CMR High School, and is the head coach for the Great Falls Chargers baseball team. It’s a responsibility he doesn’t take lightly. “Growing up, I want to say the biggest influences outside my family were coaches. They had a big impact on me going off to college and playing baseball. I’ve played for a lot of great coaches and just the impact they’ve had on my life is what’s driven me to the profession or this job,” said Forster.
His coaching philosophy focuses on more than winning. He’s invested in players’ skills and success beyond the baseball diamond. “I think being a good teammate is a big part of it. You’re going to have successes; you’re going to have failures, but just being a good person, being a good teammate is a big part of it. I think they learn that in sports. I think that’s a huge quality moving on with their lives,” explained Forster.
Forster provides a safe space for his students and players to develop, and is dedicated to helping them pave their best path forward. “I think that’s a huge thing in our community is building those relationships and doing everything you can to get them to where they want to go and succeed,” Forster said.
Thirteen people nominated Forster. He now holds the record for the most nominations in the eight-year old Five Under 35 program. Here’s a sample:
- Tony was born and raised in Great Falls. After attending college Tony returned to work for his dad before he became a coach and community leader. He tells me all the time how wonderful he thinks Great Falls is and has worked non-stop to provide the young people here with opportunities for success. Tony is a wonderful example of creating a sound environment for everyone around him and truly believes that the strength of a community relies on its youth. When he isn't coaching or volunteering at our church, he is working to ensure our kids and families are still provided with opportunities.Before COVID restrictions, a huge piece of Tony’s job at PGEC was to provide rides to students who had no way of getting to school. After COVID, he worked 10 hours everyday at the school shopping for groceries, preparing meals, and delivering supplies and food to families all over the Great Falls community.When we knew that the summer’s annual book mobile would be cancelled, he assisted me in organizing and delivering over 4,000 children’s books to all of the elementary schools including, the Early Learning Family Center.
- Coach Forster is leading the future of this town by example. He is a leader to the core and is willing to be there for young men in time of need. He is extremely hard working and blue-collar. He constantly goes the extra mile to meet the needs of his players and coaches. His drive to win and compete is unmatched in our community. He is what the City of Great Falls needs in terms of leading the future by example.
- Tony helps the most vulnerable in our community: kids. There really is no more to be said except he does it with a smile on his face and a positive outlook that he passes on to all he meets.
- Tony has immersed himself into the life and lives of Great Falls. He is a great example of what a young person can do to make a small change in his town. He gives of himself to people and programs in the community and does so with a genuine heart and concern for others.
- Tony makes Great Falls better a better place through mentoring our community’s youth. Our young people are an important place to start when you are trying to positively impact a community. He has been a positive and strong role model for many who needed to find direction down a better path. Tony Forster certainly is playing his part in making Great Falls a great place to be.
Forster’s recognition also makes for the first husband and wife duo to have been honored through the Five Under 35 program. His wife Jordann Lankford was an honoree in 2015. “She’s always been there for me and I wouldn’t be where I am today without her, so I appreciate that,” Forster said about his wife.
- Five Under 35: Michelia Rivera-Acosta
- Five Under 35: Tony Forster
- Five Under 35: Jessi Oeleis
- Five Under 35: Anna Christofferson
- Five Under 35: Beth Branam