Reflections on my year at Appleseed

Weitz fellow Tori Ostenso recently completed her one-year fellowship.

Weitz fellow Tori Ostenso recently completed her one-year fellowship.

My year as a Weitz fellow has been a whirlwind. I didn’t expect Appleseed and Lincoln, NE to find it’s way so close to my heart in the same way that I didn’t expect to feel a “hot breeze” for the first time in my life. Seriously, who knew the wind could blow so hot from something other than an electric blow dryer? During my year here, I have gotten an introduction to state-level policies, learned more tools and tips for effective community organizing, dug into some of the most contested policy battles in our country today, and become part of an extraordinary workplace team and Midwest community.

Before coming to work at Appleseed, I had never heard of a Unicameral or taken part in conversations about organizing strategy. I knew that voting mattered, but I didn’t know about all of the other ways you can influence policy change like testifying at a hearing or writing a letter to the editor. I wasn’t even really sure how bills are written and passed and the role that a State Senator plays in that. This year, I have seen all of the behind-the-scenes-work required to make policy change happen which makes me a better informed citizen and a more effective organizer.

From Left: Organizer Kait Madsen, Child Welfare program associate Becca Brune, Weitz fellow Tori Ostenso.

From Left: Organizer Kait Madsen, Child Welfare program associate Becca Brune, Weitz fellow Tori Ostenso.

One of the most rewarding parts of my job this year was taking outreach trips to rural Nebraska with my friend-at-first-road-trip, Kait Madsen. On these trips, Kait and I developed relationships with community leaders, learned about the issues facing these communities, and had lots time for good ol’ car bonding. Being from rural Northern Wisconsin, these outreach trips made me realize the importance of rural capacity building. The small town culture I experienced “out west” really made me feel at home.

These trips also enabled me to visit some great Nebraska tourist attractions and eat at some of the finest small town dining establishments. My favorites include El Mocajete and The Emporium in Scottsbluff, El Rinconcito in Lexington, Royal Indian Cuisine in Grand Island, and TruCafe in Kearney.

I am so grateful to have worked with some of the best “folks” on the planet here at Appleseed (and am proud to say that I have thoroughly integrated the word “folks” into my vocabulary). Whether I was co-directing a video starring two adorable office babies, at a Farmer’s Market canvassing for Medicaid expansion, at my desk writing and reading bajillions of emails, or on the volleyball court during a 48-hour heat advisory, I always felt supported and energized by the smart, creative, and quirky Appleseed team.

Weitz fellow Tori Ostenso (left) and Appleseed law clerk Kasey Ogle were among the Nebraskans urging for stronger reforms at the CFPB hearing.

Weitz fellow Tori Ostenso (left) and Appleseed law clerk Kasey Ogle were among the Nebraskans urging for stronger reforms at the CFPB hearing.

I just want to say thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!! To the Weitz Family for making this fellowship possible and ensuring that my first “real job” out of college was an awesome experience. To Appleseed staff for all the love and support. Can we please be friends forever? And to Nebraska for welcoming me into the Great Plains with a warm, sticky hug.

I am going back to Wisconsin for a few weeks to swim in the fresh waters of my homeland and replenish my body’s cheese stores. Then in the end of August, I am driving up to Vancouver, British Columbia, on a Fulbright Research Grant to study at the University of British Columbia in the Master’s program in Integrated Studies in Land and Food Systems.

No matter where I go in life, I will not hesitate to “stand up for justice” and I will never forget that the Midwest is the best!

  2 Replies to “Reflections on my year at Appleseed”

  1. Randy Moody
    08/02/2016 at 3:23 pm

    Great tribute to our wonderful staff. You obviously have made a big difference in a young person’s life. Congratulations!

  2. Kent Goertzen
    08/04/2016 at 7:15 pm

    And Thank You for helping a great organization stand up for the people of this state.

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