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Program teaches students how to organize

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10 graduate from the summer Luján Leadership Congressional Campaign Fellowship

By Special to the Monitor

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján’s re-election campaign recently completed the successful pilot program of the Summer Luján Leadership Congressional Campaign Fellowship (LLCCF). Ten high school and college students from four counties graduated from the LLCCF.

“We held an intensive three-day training session in Santa Fe to kick off the program," said Justin Bailey, the project coordinator.  

“The Fellows worked with campaign staff and elected officials, including State Auditor Hector Balderas, Santa Fe Mayor David Coss and Rep. Luján on messaging, relationship-building skills, voter contact techniques and organizing tactics.”  

Starlyne Trujillo, 16, from Isleta Pueblo, talked about the experience of attending. “We were all able to share our stories and get to know each other.  At the end of the training, I felt like I had known the other Fellows for years.”

After the training, the Fellows returned to their hometowns to organize for the campaign.  Once they hit the ground there was no stopping them as they went to work doing community outreach and volunteer recruitment for the campaign.  

They organized phone banks, parade floats and house parties for Luján.

The fellows participated in bi-weekly conference calls, facilitated by Bailey and Deputy Coordinator Juman Khweis, 19.  Khweis, from Taos, is attending Georgetown University where she studies international politics.  

“If they did something exceptional, like beat one of their goals or come up with a great idea, they got blue tokens.  The blue tokens were rewards for hard work.  They went crazy for the blue tokens.”

The three Fellows who ended up with the highest number of blue tokens had one-on-one meetings with rising stars in the political world, including Luján.   

“Before the LLCCF, I wasn’t very outgoing,” said Zoe Larson, 17, a student at Taos High School. “I didn't understand how to communicate with new people, especially adults.  The fellowship helped me become confident enough to walk up to complete strangers and get to know leaders within the community. All my previous inhibitions seem silly now.”  

Larson, who won the blue token contest, had brunch with Brian Colón, the Democratic Party nominee for lieutenant governor, when Colón was in Taos last week.  She and the other top two performers, Crystal Ortega a student at Highlands and Lauren Vonosten of Rio Rancho helped organize a tour of house parties on Aug. 1.  

“The Fellows organized five house parties in five counties in one day,” Bailey said.  “It was pretty empowering. And at each house party, with the congressman and the guests listening, they gave a short speech.”

Applicants from  Los Alamos are encouraged to apply for admission into the LLCCF. Applications may be obtained by visiting www.benrLujan.com/node/761.   

The deadline for the next training session is Aug. 31, 2010.