Meet the Wellstone Corps

June 11, 2014

Meet the 25 organizers who make up the inaugural class of Wellstone Corps. These leaders spent last week in Nashville, being trained by some of the best progressive campaigners in the country. Now they’re deployed to 5 targeted states across the country to take on radical conservatives, and win progressive change the Wellstone Way. After the 2014 campaign, they’ll be plugged into a community of progressives ready to help them launch their careers in the movement. After you get to know these 25 emerging organizers, support trainings just like the one they completed in Nashville. 

Amanda Ford

Tell us about your organizing experience.
I got my start at NC State University when I joined the College Dems. We did voter registration on campus and volunteered for the John Kerry Campaign in'04. Sharing with young people the importance of having a voice in local and national politics was one of the first issues I organized around.

What changes are you most passionate about fighting for in the world?
I truly want to see everyone take part in this democracy. There are so many voices that are yet to be heard because they feel marginalized and do not know where to begin. I want to be a part of giving those who feel silent a voice and an opportunity to make the changes they believe in.

What would be your superhero name AND power?
Smooth Fighter. I would be able to transport myself and others to wherever we want to go! We would travel, break down barriers, change the world and just be awesome!

Arie Kroeger

Tell us about your organizing experience.
I have been supporting communities in the pursuit of their goals for 9 years. In St. Paul I opened and owned part of a community coffee shop whose purpose was to bring the surrounding community together to: share art, discuss politics, celebrate community holidays, and work on community issues.

I served 2 years and 2 months in Peace Corps Morocco and continued to focus on community organizing through youth development. I created a sustainable music program by training volunteer teachers, training peer educators, and providing space and instruments. I was Vice Chair and Chair of the Peace Corps Morocco Gender and Development Committee where we focused on empowering volunteers to work on gender issues.

What changes are you most passionate about fighting for in the world?
I am passionate about the entire progressive platform. Energy, transportation, and packaging practices must change to ensure the future of our environment and our economy. Distribution of wealth and power must change to preserve democracy and justice. Institutional and commercial prejudice in regards to issues of gender, sexual preference, race, and religion must be eradicated if the US is to remain the land of the free. Progressive politics has the power to address these issues, and the concept of building sustainable politics through community organizing is the key.

What would be your superhero name AND power?
Name: Problem Solver
Power: Transmutation

Calvin Orr II

Tell us about your organizing experience.
I wish I could tell the world I began organizing because my parents were known political activist in my city or because since high school I have had an overwhelming desire to fight for change. However, my experience is different. I was the person who avoided involvement, who did not want to give his all and who did not see the value in investing precious time and money into volunteering. And then, a young lady in my faith based organization, took me under her wing, she saw incredible strengths, and inspired me by understanding who I am at the core. She took the organizer role of developing me as a leader. Now, with that direction, I have become a faith based organizer developing volunteers into people who lead their own life, own their space and fight for issues that make their families stronger.

What changes are you most passionate about fighting for in the world?
Raising minimum wage is not only just, it’s humane. In the greatest country in the world, working families should not have struggle to pay the bills, balance time with family responsibilities and multiple jobs, while trying to find the energy to love their children and hopefully make it to the next softball game.

What would be your superhero name AND power?
Until I have the honor and privilege of having the greatest superhero name in the world like father, dad, or grandfather and because I'll never have the superhero name of mom, mother, or grandmother I will settle for the superhero name "CO2EMPOWERMENT." The world is lacking pure kindness, friendliness, hope, joy, peace and most of all LOVE. I use these to genuinely care for and show compassion for people. This is who I am at the core and these are how we develop the greatest leaders in the world called "Everyday People."

Christopher Cooke

Tell us about your organizing experience.
I tend to think of myself as a seasoned organizer. I started organizing in Salt Lake City Utah when I was in high school. I started out being passionate around LGBTQ issues, especially as they pertain to youth. I had just come out, and was starting to live life authentically.  I left home, and moved to Idaho and got involved in the College Democrats and LGBTSA. And after years of learning and growing in my local community, I became the state president of the Idaho Young Democrats with the goal of educating and energizing young Democrats across the state. I also volunteered for the Pride foundation, the Idaho suicide hotline, and the Interfaith Alliance.

What changes are you most passionate about fighting for in the world?
My dad died before I came out. Since then I have been all about living authentically to myself. When I came out, I met a lot of resistance from my mother. Growing up I wish I had a better support system, and I have dedicated my life to building a safe and supportive community for queer youth of color. Suicide and bullying are epidemics in our community, and I do what I can to combat it. No one should live in fear. I especially love working in immigrant communities, and communities with new voters. I am passionate about everything, because there is just so much work to be done everywhere.

What would be your superhero name AND power?
I would have a reset a button,  that allows me to redo things differently, but not go forward in time.

Chrystian Woods

Tell us about your organizing experience.
My organizing experience began with Obama for America in the fall of 2012. I was recruited as a campus team leader following my internship with the John Lewis for Congress Campaign. My primary focus was to recruit volunteers for voter registration and GOTV activities in Jacksonville, FL.

What changes are you most passionate about fighting for in the world?
I am most passionate about changing the scholastic achievement gap brought about because of income inequality. Every American child has the right to a high quality education.

Colleen Haydt

Tell us about your organizing experience.
I worked for Obama in 2012 as a Campaign Fellow and I also worked for Allyson Schwartz's campaign for governor in Pennsylvania. For the most part, I've organized within my county-- a rural area-- as well as my college campus.

What changes are you most passionate about fighting for in the world?
I am most passionate about dismantling hierarchical power structures and institutions (i.e. racism, heterosexism, cissexism, the patriarchy, etc.) because to me it is incredibly important that every individual is able to achieve their greatest potential without being stopped at every turn by institutions that oppress them.

What would be your superhero name AND power?
I'm not sure what my name would be, but my power would probably similar to Spiderman's because he can get places more efficiently, but he looks a lot cooler doing it than Superman does.

Daniel Cox

Tell us about your organizing experience.
I’ve worked on many local and congressional campaigns across Minnesota. I have also done issue work on minimum wage, marriage equality, and safe schools.

My family has been involved with progressive advocacy since I was very young. Being involved has just always been something I've done because it's how I was raised. I remember being shocked when I found out how few people vote, for example.

What changes are you most passionate about fighting for in the world?
Economic justice and equality. We live in a society where the state apparatus is being gradually hijacked to serve the economic interests of those already possessing great wealth, at the expense of those who have little.

What would be your superhero name AND power?
"The Newtonian," because the power I want is super-science. Seriously, it's the best. Want to fly? Let's build some anti-gravity boots. Healing? Nanotech, or maybe direct genetic manipulation. Want to save the planet? Nail down cold fusion, boom, energy for all. Disease, famine, natural disaster? UNLEASH THE SCIENCE.

I would want to run a company called Impossible Industries which yes, is stolen from "the Venture Bros."

David Carden

Tell us about your organizing experience.
In 2011, I worked as an intern with Feeding South Florida where I worked directly for the Director of Government Relations. I was tasked with reaching out to elected officials to make them aware of FSF's goals in the hopes of receiving more funding for the organization. Then after a few years of doing my own studying and attempting to be an activist on human rights issues, I was hired as an intern for Enough Project for the summer of 2013 where I worked with their advocacy team.

What changes are you most passionate about fighting for in the world?
I want to see multinational corporations, especially those in the U.S., be held accountable for their business practices that destroy livelihoods in underdeveloped countries. I want to see education for disadvantaged communities be improved because no matter how much economic opportunity arises, communities that lack the fundamental ethics and intellect will only repeat past behavior.

What would be your superhero name AND power?
Mzungu - and I would make people able to communicate with each other, regardless of language barriers.

Debby Dowlin

Tell us about your organizing experience.
I learned to be a grassroots organizer with the Philadelphia Student Union. As a public school student in Philly, I joined PSU in middle school in order to organize with students from across the city to demand better resources and fair state funding for our schools. Through high school I became a paid staff member of the Student Union who led weekly training sessions for peers on social justice issues and leadership development. It is through my work with the Philadelphia Student Union that I came to revere grassroots organizing not only for the progressive work that it can accomplish, but for the lifelong leaders that it can build.

For the last few years, I have worked as a public school teacher in Philadelphia.

What changes are you most passionate about fighting for in the world?
Given my background in public education organizing, and my experience as a public school teacher in Philly, I care deeply about revolutionizing the way we educate our children in the U.S. We need to move away from school funding formulas that perpetuate class inequality and continue to strip poor students of the resources they need most. Public education is the backbone of democracy and both are in grave danger in our country.

I also care a lot about international peace, strict gun control laws, U.S. and international labor rights, women's reproductive freedom, LGBTQ equality issues, immigrant rights and multiculturalism in the U.S., stopping the school to prison pipeline for minority youth, taking action against global warming, and stopping rape culture and violence against women worldwide. So many issues, but they're all connected.

What would be your superhero name AND power?
Daring Debby---I'd dare to speak & act for those who can't.

Don Rangel

Tell us about your organizing experience.
I have had the opportunity to work as a volunteer for the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns for Barack Obama in the swing state of Colorado. I have always been passionate about progressive politics and fighting for what I believe in. Even in high school, my friends and I would spend every lunch period having intense political debates. I am excited to have the opportunity to organize and support a cause to move America forward.

What changes are you most passionate about fighting for in the world?
I am passionate about a lot of progressive social issues, including racial equality, gender equality, and equality for those with different sexual orientations. I want to fight propaganda that is based on fake data and support my arguments with facts and logic. I want to see a peaceful world that isn't fueled with ignorance. I want to see an end to gun violence.

Economic issues are also important to me. I want to see a system in place that allows anyone and everyone the opportunity to succeed in this country. I've had the opportunity to travel to many places around the world, and I've seen what can happen in places that actually invest in their people, transportation infrastructure, and the education of their kids. I want to fight against the student loan debt crisis, not only for myself, but for all the students out there that graduate and realize that all that hard work can only get them a job working minimum wage. Everyone deserves a chance at work, an education and the pursuit of happiness.

What would be your superhero name AND power?
My superhero name would Don Wayne, and my power would be much like X Men's Mystique, I could transform into anyone and create political scandal. Or I could just be batman.

Ellie Zuckerman

Tell us about your organizing experience.

I've worked on campaigns of all kinds in Washington State (since the dawn of time) and Massachusetts (during college) but I have a soft spot for local races. Wherever I am, I try to be as politically active as humanly possible.

What changes are you most passionate about fighting for in the world?
I'm pretty sure that improved public transit in the United States would help solve most problems. Think about it.

What would be your superhero name AND power?
I'm sure it's already in use but I would be BatGirl and exceptionally good at geography.

Jordan Peterson

Tell us about your organizing experience.
I first got involved with campaigns during the 2012 Vote No campaign to defeat the marriage amendment in Minnesota. One of my friends was volunteering and told me I should as well. At the time I had never been involved in any political activity and it didn't seem appealing. But I remember thinking if I didn't stand up against this amendment, what do I even stand for? In 2013/2014 I worked on higher education issues as a legislative specialist at the Minnesota State University Student Association. I also had the opportunity to organize students at Winona State University, introducing them to the legislative process at the State Capitol for our Lobby Day. During that same time period, I also was a regional director for The Borgen Project, a campaign that works towards improving the United State's response to the global poverty crisis through advocacy and grassroots lobbying.

What changes are you most passionate about fighting for in the world?
Mitigating climate change is the greatest issue that I would like to fight for, and one of the primary reasons I am interested in congressional politics. A stable climate is critical to keeping society stable, and I see all of our wonderful work in other areas collapsing if the worst effects of climate change are realized.

What would be your superhero name AND power?
 I would be called Deadzone and my power would be that I can disable or jam all communication devices in the area around me.

Lamont King

Tell us about your organizing experience.
I've organized in Charlotte, NC, and Rocky Mount, VA. In both areas, I helped organize Democratic voter turnout for the presidential election.

What changes are you most passionate about fighting for in the world?
Equal pay for equal work. Electing candidates who more closely identify with the average citizen.

What would be your superhero name AND power?
KRIT- King Remembered in Time. My power would be the ability to make people with unjustified prejudices be more empathic with those they judge.

Laura Goslin

Tell us about your organizing experience.
I have worked on many campaigns supporting labor and working families around Michigan. I have organized with the Michigan State AFL-CIO and supported some LGBTQ laws in the state. I originally found my place in politics through the high school club "Youth in Government", I've been in politics ever since.

What changes are you most passionate about fighting for in the world?
I am most passionate about people. I love being a progressive because we value and care for everybody's rights, not just our own. This desire to connect and help people makes being in politics very rewarding, I hope to use it as a tool to create change.

What would be your superhero name AND power?
I would be Phoenix and my super power would be the ability to eat ungodly amounts of Chipotle guacamole.

Matthew Schirber

Tell us about your organizing experience.
I worked as a volunteer on Barack Obama's presidential campaign.

Recently, I was involved in a city council campaign in Minneapolis, I served as database manager for that campaign in which I managed 200 constituents.
Later, I worked on a state house campaign, I started off as database manager then I staffed the candidate in phone calling and doorknocking.

What changes are you most passionate about fighting for in the world?
I want to see more people of color in elected office.

What would be your superhero name AND power?
Aqua Man. I would have the power to influence water in any way.

Murphy Guinane

Tell us about your organizing experience.
When I was ten years old, I wrote a letter to the recently-elected President Bush about climate change policy; in return, I received a signed headshot. Tiny me was furious. Grown-up me is still furious, but about a wider variety of things.

In high school and college, I organized student letter-writing campaigns and volunteered for voter registration. I went on to major in women's studies, and try to spend my life fighting daily inequalities and micro-aggressions as well as the grand-scale issues.

What changes are you most passionate about fighting for in the world?
I care very deeply about women's issues, reproductive rights issues, and issues of gender and sexuality. Until very recently, these were my priority; however, I've recently become impassioned about voters' rights and active democracy. After all, without those things driving our system, nothing else can be achieved.

What would be your superhero name AND power?
I would have the useless and incredibly obnoxious power of getting pop music stuck in other people's heads. My name would be something equally atrocious, like Earworm.

Nick Marshall

Tell us about your organizing experience.
I have worked on a variety of campaigns in the disability rights movement, including fighting for the rights of people found Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity in Connecticut and advocating for a more inclusive Medicaid waiver policy in Colorado. In 2010, I was a summer organizer for OFA, building on my volunteer experience from campaigns in 2002, 2004, and 2008. For the last two and a half years I have worked for Clean Water Action, first as an Assistant Canvass Director and later as the Virginia Program Organizer, where I managed our electoral and legislative efforts and started a campaign to protect Virginians from Coal Ash.

What changes are you most passionate about fighting for in the world?
I like to frame issues that I work on in the form of civil rights. I am passionate about working for the rights of people to dignity, respect, equal opportunity, autonomy, and access to food, shelter, and healthcare.

What would be your superhero name AND power?
The Decider. I would decide things. (e.g. no, it's not going to be hot and muggy in Nashville today).

Pavel "Pablo" DeJesús

Tell us about your organizing experience.
I've worked on economic and infrastructure development campaigns, as well as health and human services policy issues. I've worked or volunteered on many campaigns in Maryland, in particular the State Dream Act and Marriage Equality efforts. I got my start when an organizer recruited me to step forward and be an active ally.

What changes are you most passionate about fighting for in the world?
I'm most passionate about a fair and functional economy. I know too many people on the short end of the stick despite making a sincere and honorable effort.

What would be your superhero name AND power?
Señor Straphanger, able to get to and from any location quickly on awesome low cost public transportation.

Sam Wohns

Tell us about your organizing experience.
When I was 10 years old, my mother and I knocked on doors for Al Gore's presidential campaign in my hometown near Grand Rapids, Michigan. Since then, I have worked on social and environmental justice campaigns from Alaska to Argentina. Most recently, as a student, I organized with small farmers threatened by abusive practices at my university's wholly-owned timber plantations in the Iberá Wetlands.

What changes are you most passionate about fighting for in the world?
Ever since an outside development company tried to buy a local election in my small hometown, I have been fighting for people power to beat money power in our democracy.

What would be your superhero name AND power?
I would be The Mighty Bee who overthrows corrupt queen bees and replaces them with worker bee assemblies.

Scott Jaburek

Tell us about your organizing experience.
I have mainly worked in organizing around LGBT issues. I have worked with organizations to modify non-discrimination policies of Chicago Public Schools to include gender identity/expression during high school. In college, I grew a volunteer and membership base for the LGBT group on campus. With the growth in membership, we kick started a campaign to make the position in the Queer Resource Center full-time and to have a large and successful Day of Silence at a school that previously showed little interest in their LGBT peers.

In addition, I have worked with an organization to move targeted lawmakers on Immigration Reform.

What changes are you most passionate about fighting for in the world?
I am most passionate about issues which are influenced by socioeconomic divisions in our society. Inequality is not a one-dimensional issue as it has other ramifications including school funding, neighborhood investment, and the sense of justice and legitimacy which communities are given.

What would be your superhero name AND power?
Adam the animorph- I would have the ability to take the form of animals.

Sergio Costa

Tell us about your organizing experience.
I have done student organizing at the campus level around environmental issues as co-chair of the Student Environmental Center. During my tenure, my organization passed a referendum to make a campus building LEED Silver Certified, approved a campus bike library, and led zero waste events. I have also encouraged K-12 teachers and students to volunteer to save energy at Oakland Unified School District.

What changes are you most passionate about fighting for in the world?
Mitigating climate change is the greatest issue that I would like to fight for, and one of the primary reasons I am interested in congressional politics. A stable climate is critical to keeping society stable, and I see all of our wonderful work in other areas collapsing if the worst effects of climate change are realized.

What would be your superhero name AND power?
My superhero name would be Diego Valentino, Master of Minds.

Shyria Coleman

Tell us about your organizing experience.
I have worked on campaigns to: improve wages, fair labor practices, improve education practices and standards, improve access to healthcare, and safe guard women's reproductive rights.

What changes are you most passionate about fighting for in the world?
I am most passionate about pushing our humanity to support every person having access to quality standards of living such as whole living foods, living wages, quality affordable healthcare, and access to decision makers and a voice/seat at the [decision making] table that is valued.

What would be your superhero name AND power?
I have always felt a kinship to Storm from the X-Men. I like her ability to channel her emotions in to the elements and that she was created as a woman of color initially is very AWESOME to me. I would rather be called Lavina and my powers would be to utilize the power of love through touch to break down the matter of an antagonist. I would also like to control those elements, that would be FRESH!

Toni-Ann Preston

Tell us about your organizing experience.
I organized my campus during the two years I was a part of my school's student government. During that time, I assisted my fellow student government reps during our voter registration drives and have organized events that aim to promote diversity and awareness on campus.

What changes are you most passionate about fighting for in the world?
I am most passionate about economic equality and justice. The lack of economic equality is very apparent in many places around the world because of policies and institutions that are in place to ensure that the distribution of wealth is drastically unequal.

I am also passionate about justice because I have seen in recent years how broken our criminal/legal system is in the United States and how certain groups are affected more by this system indirectly or directly.

What would be your superhero name AND power?
My superhero name would be Toni Tone and my power would be Happiness.

Tristan Wilkerson

Tell us about your organizing experience.
My organizing experience began in Fall 2008, working to establish West Tennessee Students for Obama, registering more than 10 thousand mostly college age voters in Memphis, TN and the Mississippi Delta Region. Since then, I have worked intense congressional campaigns, a US Senate race, and most recently, successfully launching a state delegate race in down-state Maryland as campaign manager then advisor for a first-time candidate. Prior to joining Wellstone Corps '14, I worked as a Congressional staffer, then moved on to organize advocacy campaigns for Millenials on issues of healthcare, improving state funding for higher education, and jobs at Young Invincibles.

What changes are you most passionate about fighting for in the world?
As a political enthusiast, I champion civic engagement particularly among young adults and people of color to generate balance and equity in lawmaking. To that end, my passion continues to drive my work to improve access to education, entrepreneurialism, and employability for boys and men of color - fighting stigmas and stereotypes to promote social empowerment. 

What would be your superhero name AND power?
Not big on superheroes, except for the awesome team at Wellstone... But since you asked, I'd be Superman and my powers would be, well...super! (duh)

Tyler Nord

Tell us about your organizing experience.
I’ve worked on many campaigns throughout Northern Minnesota including Vote No on the Marriage Amendment, CREDO’s Take Down Cravaack, Vote No on Voter ID, DFL Senate District 7 Outreach, and the DFL State Convention Tech Crew.

What changes are you most passionate about fighting for in the world?
Collective bargaining, swords to plowshares, and progressive tax codes are important to me.

Environmental sustainability is important to me, both natural environments and man-made ones, such as shopping malls nuclear reactors and Olympic stadiums, if these can't be sustained, why build them? These things concern me because I believe in the Seven Generation principle, imagining if you’re inhibiting the ability to people seven generations from now the ability to thrive in a healthy environment.

What would be your superhero name AND power?
Capriman, and I could turn into that silver stuff from the old Capri Sun commercials and go through door cracks, vent systems, pipes, and encapsulate the villain, and bring them to justice.

Wellstone Corps is a program of Progressive Campaign Leadership, an affiliate of Wellstone Action.