Campus Camp Wellstone, a set on Flickr.
Last week on University Improvement day, a group of 50 enthusiastic students gathered at 8:30 am to learn how to improve their communities and, in turn, improve their world. The students were enrolled in a program called Campus Camp Wellstone, an organization that trains groups to create effective political grassroots movements. There was a diverse turnout of students from many social clubs on campus, all representing different goals, social issues and leadership styles.
Campus Camp Wellstone is a training program that helps students, groups or organizations organize and plan successful political grassroots movements. As a non-partisan organization, Campus Camp Wellstone wants to help all people with their progressive goals and visions. The organization and blueprint for this success is based on the now deceased Paul and Sheila Wellstone’s personal and effective strategy, which has been called the “Wellstone Triangle.” The Wellstone Triangle has three basic elements: “progressive public policy, which lays out an agenda for action; grassroots community organizing, which builds a constituency to fight for change; and grassroots electoral politics, which provides tools for influencing policymakers and holding them accountable.”
Campus Camp Wellstone was organized and planned by several Winona State University Students including Oksana Carlier, Hunger Schepper, Jax Pugh, Karl Fluegel and myself, and overseen by faculty member and head of Women and Gender Studies, Tamara Berg. The success of our planning proved fruitful as the turnout was completely full. We were also mentored along the way by Meredith Hicks, the representative and trainer of Camp Wellstone, who told us the success of a good turnout was based on having a personal connection with the individuals who have registered. In order to do this, we each made a personal call to 5-7 students to make sure they were going to attend Tuesday’s training. To our surprise, it worked!
Campus Camp Wellstone taught us all how through public policy, electoral politics and grassroots community organizing, to make lasting progressive political change in a community. The planning group, who decided on the content of the seminar, specifically tailored skills to be focused on. We decided to focus on Political Mapping, communicating with the community on a personal level and leadership styles. Although complex and tedious at times, the skills learned in each of these lessons will be extremely useful in creating the social changes desired by many campus clubs.
Through this training, I now feel personally responsible and obligated to effect social change. Campus Camp Wellstone gave us the tools and skills necessary for making things happen. Before the seminar, we were asked to consider how “powerful” we feel. For the most part, people identified feeling empowered in their own personal sphere, but often feel powerless when it comes to the political or worldview. Campus Camp Wellstone encouraged each of us to take charge of progress and change in our communities, showing how an organized grassroots movement can develop momentum and power to establish lasting change. I can confidently say that everyone left the seminar empowered and fired up to improve the world.
As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” Now, with the help of Campus Camp Wellstone, we have no excuse not to be that change.