Practicing What We Preach

May 23, 2013

Edith Sargon and Naomi Long are great trainers and even greater people, it’s true; and they are also the most real and recent example of how Wellstone Action practices what we preach.

Both Edith and Naomi officially joined our staff last year, but they’ve both been part of our Campus Camp Wellstone trainer corps long before pulling down a steady Wellstone paycheck. Campus Camp Wellstone, or CCW, is Wellstone Action’s highly interactive organizing training for college students and young people. Naomi, reflecting on her experience as a Wellstone trainer, says:

“The experience of being a CCW trainer was transformative – it was the first time I began to see myself as a movement trainer and facilitator. I was surrounded by people who were totally invested in my growth as a teacher and knew how to give me feedback on every aspect of my training style in a way that made me feel powerful, skilled, and competent.”

Edith continues, “When I saw the staff and culture at Wellstone Action, I saw real accountability, real feedback, and a constant drive to improve and be better and more adaptable…an organization with a committed and hardworking team, one that’s well positioned to contribute to the success of the progressive movement, and is flexible and hungry for success. And it became clear to me that I love to train. I love to be with a group of people from the beginning to the end of a process. I get energy from it, and I know I’ve gotten better as a trainer since I became a part of Wellstone Action.”

Both of them got so good, in fact, that we had to make them part of our full-time family. Now, Naomi and Edith each lead major pieces of Wellstone Action’s work. Edith is Deputy Director of our Labor Training Program, with a focus on strategic planning and capacity development for union members, staff, and leaders, and Naomi directs the very Campus Camp Wellstone program that made her part of the Wellstone crew in the first place.

This is the pipeline in action. Two incredible women, two incredible organizers, two people who’ve grown from training with us on occasion to shaping and driving major components of our work in the world. And it’s what we teach – what Paul Wellstone taught – that the triangle of community organizing, electoral politics, and public policy has, at its center, a focus on leadership development. It’s the secret to staying power for all of us who angle toward progressive change.

And what’s the best part of their respective gigs? For Edith, it’s really two things: working with some of the most incredible union members and staff from across the country, and “the honor of being associated with the legacy of this organization, with Paul and Sheila and who they were. I feel proud telling people I work for Wellstone Action, to be one of this incredible group of folks making a real impact in this really hard time for progressive issues.”

And for Naomi? It’s three things: “our participants, my training team, and the organizational partnerships we’ve built. Traveling around the country working with, teaching, and learning from smart, dedicated, and fired up young people is the absolute best! The idea that young people have always been the engine for massive social justice change somehow gets lost in much of the mainstream political discourse. Being on the road with Campus Camp Wellstone is a reminder that young people are organizing and winning on a host of issues, from student debt, to sustainable energy, to civil rights in the 21st century. This year, we created curricula and designed train-the-trainer programs for Energy Action Coalition and United States Student Association – these were fantastic experiences, and I’m looking forward to taking them to a whole ‘nother level!”

So are we all.