- Alumni Stories
I guess you could call it “trying to change the world”, but it is about so much more than that
By Helen Clanaugh, CS17
My work in organizing and activism started a little over a year ago when I was asked by Liz Olson if I wanted to be on her campaign team for re-election to the Minnesota State House. I was filled with joy when she told me this, but my passion for helping people sprouted way before this and has been with me my whole life. About half way through the campaign, I was asked to take over as campaign manager because our original one was moving away. This was such an honor and a little bit nerve-racking. I was ready for this challenge though, because of our amazing campaign team that I was surrounded by. When I was at Conserve School I did a lot of campaign work remotely. Sometimes it was hard to not be at the center of it all, especially after spending my whole summer making phone calls and knocking on doors for the candidates that I believed would make my community a better place. I still did whatever I could to stay involved even if it meant educating my Conserve pals about what was going on in the world of politics. I gained many connections with new people during the 2018 midterms and I am very grateful for this.
This campaign is what launched me into my advocacy work. I organized walkouts at my school and the March For Our Lives in my hometown of Duluth. I am now on the State Leadership team for Students Demand Action MN, I volunteer as the Field Organizer for Mike Mayou for Duluth City Council, and I am applying to be on the Minnesota Youth Council. I truly believe that this work can and will make a difference in my city, state, and country. Something that I base my advocacy on is the idea, Politics of Joy. This idea was brought to light by one of my favorite people and organizers, Erin Murphy who lived by this on her campaign for MN governor in 2018. To me, the idea of Politics of Joy means that when we work with each other and not against each other and when we acknowledge not what we do alone, but what we do together, we are a lot stronger and more unified. Along my journey of becoming a political organizer in the city of Duluth and my state of Minnesota, I have realized how divisive and tough this work can be. I have gained even more appreciation for the land and water around me. It is always what I resort to when things are challenging and when I need a break. After Conserve School, I will always have the memories and friends to ground me, even if they aren’t right here with me.
In the future, I plan to continue my advocacy by majoring in Political Science with minors in Women and Gender Studies and Environmental Studies. Some of the colleges I am thinking about include Macalester College, Warren Wilson College, Augsburg College, and Saint Lawrence University. I am excited to continue this work and to educate the people around me about the importance of being involved and how fun it can be! My overarching goal of the political activism I do, is to to inspire future generations and minority communities that may be left out of the conversation most of the time to find the issues that they are passionate about and advocate for them.
Left to right, Helen's friend Bella, Duluth Mayor Emily Larson, MN Governor candidate Erin Murphy, and Helen at a rally.
Helen at her high school walking out to call on elected officials to do something about the epidemic of gun violence in America.
Helen with her Duluth community at March for our LIves.
Making calls to get out the vote for Stu Lourey for State Senate.
Helen's former babysitter turned State Representative Liz Olson at a rally.
Photos submitted by Helen Clanaugh