Our Campus Camp Wellstone Philosophy? What’s Next.

November 13, 2013

It’s Saturday and the room’s buzzing, over 70 college students laughing, energized, and ready to go. No, we’re not talking about a bar or a club, or even the library; instead, it’s 8:30am, and students from two colleges in Northfield, Minnesota crowd into a college conference room adorned with old pictures of college presidents and dusty chalkboards. Over the next two days, students got a crash course in organizing the Wellstone Way, at Campus Camp Wellstone.

And here’s the thing: this isn’t news just because of what happened over the weekend; it’s news because of what’s going to happen next. It’s not so much that those students spent the weekend learning to become some of the country’s best campus organizers; it’s that they are now plugged into a pipeline to create change over the long haul.


For us at Wellstone Action, it’s just not good enough to spend a weekend with a group of students – no matter how inspiring of a time we have – and leave without a concrete next step, without building our movement for the long haul. So we’re building a youth leadership pipeline, with Campus Camp Wellstone as the first stop for students who are hungry for a career as an organizer, whether it’s on campus, in their communities, or in Congress. We train young people in the Wellstone Way of organizing, and then we plug them into more opportunities to get involved in shaping and growing our progressive movement, with internships, jobs, and so much more.  

Case in point: our Campus Camp Wellstone in Northfield was part of a long-term partnership with the Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor Party (DFL). Over the course of this academic year, leading up to the 2014 election, we’ll be crisscrossing the North Star State to prepare students to take on leadership roles on their campuses and in their communities, to engage with other students, turn out the vote, and build progressive governing power for generations to come.

It’s work that we are uniquely suited to do, as our partner, Alex Rosselli, the Minnesota DFL’s Youth Director, describes,

"In 2014, my goal is to build a youth movement that creates a new generation of leaders and fosters an enduring progressive agenda. When I started this work, one of the first things I did was call Wellstone Action. When it comes to empowering young Americans to become exceptional community organizers, no one does it better than Wellstone. And Wellstone's long-term commitment to create a pipeline of young leaders to transform the progressive movement is exactly the type of work I know we need to focus on across this state and country."

If you’ve never been to a Campus Camp Wellstone, you’re missing out. They are energetic, they are full of good humor, and they are deeply successful at preparing students to lead organizing efforts locally and nationally. Two big reasons for this:

1)      We have the best curriculum in the business. In just two days, students gain a ton of new skills, from power mapping and strategic planning, to communicating their message effectively and mobilizing their commysunity.
2)      Our trainers are just awesome. They come from every corner of the progressive movement, they are experienced, and if you leave a session with one of them without feeling fired up and capable of creating the change you want to see in the world…well, you should check your pulse!

So with Campus Camp Wellstone, we aim to give students a powerful framework to be changemakers, and then a network to make that change happen. And that’s exactly what we delivered in Northfield. “Everyone’s fired up,” explains Stu, a sophomore at Carleton College, “Students have a ton of potential to make change, but in the past, we haven’t had the institutional memory and infrastructure to do as much with that passion and potential. So I am loving Campus Camp Wellstone, and am so glad that I am just a sophomore so I have a while to implement everything I’m learning here with my campus organizing in the years to come.”


And this Campus Camp Wellstone was particularly special. It was held at Carleton College where Paul Wellstone spent his academic career, and where he inspired a generation of students into community organizing. Dave Wellstone, one of Paul and Shelia’s sons and one of our board chairs, opened up the first day telling students, “What I’m most interested in is the follow up. Let’s make darn sure that students like you have ways to put this weekend’s training into work, immediately and in years to come.”

Olivia, a junior at St. Olaf, who along with Stu and her classmate Rachel, helped bring Campus Camp Wellstone to Northfield, agrees, “I wanted to give students the opportunity to be effective, to get past the brick walls that often stop our movement, and make real change. It’s one thing to learn about organizing in a textbook, it’s another thing to learn first-hand from Wellstone Action.”

Strengthening our youth pipeline has meant a lot of hard, systematic, and purposeful work. As our lead trainer organizing these Campus Camps, Meredith Hicks, explains,  “Our goal is to have a constant partner for participants to engage with right away, so they can attend a Camp and then have an immediate opportunity to get involved: in a campaign, in an office, in campus leadership.”

The Campus Camp Wellstone in Northfield was also unique because it brought together students from two campuses: Carleton and St. Olaf. “We wanted to do this together,” says Rachel, from St. Olaf, “We have so many passionate students, and we’re only a mile apart; together, we can accomplish so much more.”

Collaborative, empowered, and organizing for change, both for today, and for many tomorrows. That’s how young Americans are winning the Wellstone Way. Is your campus ready to join our movement? Let us know!