OFA Fellowship: “The perfect opportunity”

By Chesney R., OFA Arizona Fellow

My memories of 2016 are filled with mixed emotions. That year was the first time I had been actively involved in the political process beyond just voting on Election Day.

At first, I started off making simple phone calls to potential volunteers (I learned it’s called “phone-banking” in the organizing world) and knocking on doors (aka “canvassing”). After getting the hang of those core outreach skills, I worked my way up to the point where I was training other new volunteers and managing GOTV (“Get Out The Vote”) staging locations — I felt like I had found my home — like I was truly making an impact.

Like millions of Americans, I found the results of the election to be heartbreaking. In those first few weeks, I didn’t know how to channel my energy or where to go next. I basically floundered as I tried to wrap my head around what had just happened; what it meant for our country, my friends and family, and myself; and what I could do moving forward. I just knew that I couldn’t go back to sitting on the sidelines — I still wanted to speak out and fight for the values and the issues that I cared about. I had caught the organizing bug and I couldn’t just sit back and watch what was happening. More than ever, I knew it was important to take a stand and stay involved in my community. And I wanted to become a more effective advocate and organizer.

Luckily, I had been fortunate enough to meet some amazing OFA alumni along the way and they pointed me in the direction of the OFA Fellowship Program. A few clicks and a quick application later and I was in — I was on my way to becoming an OFA Fellow! Before I knew it, I was learning new community building skills, developing hands-on organizing experience, and building connections with other like-minded people and organizations in my community.

The Fellowship really was the perfect opportunity to learn and practice some of the core organizing skills I probably rushed through during the campaign, with the added benefit of having a personal mentor and a whole team of OFA trainers providing guidance and feedback. And the best part: I got to choose which issues I was going to work on. OFA was there to support my local organizing, not the other way around. No matter what issue is most important to you — whether it’s women’s rights, health care, immigration reform, climate change, fighting for a fair democracy, or any of the other great local causes — the OFA Fellowship is a great way to start getting involved to improve the impact of your organizing.

Since completing my OFA Fellowship, I’ve helped organize petition drives, letter-to-the-editor writing parties, accountability events to pressure elected officials, and office visits to meet members of Congress for people to share their personal stories and concerns with the staff in person.

Two years ago, I never would have imagined it. But the OFA Fellowship helped give me the skills and the confidence to be a more engaged citizen and an active participant in our democracy.

I believe this work — the work of community engagement — really does make a difference if each of us can do our part to fight for a more participatory, fairer democracy that actually represents us. And on the days when the news is particularly bleak, that’s something to hold on to. I’m proud to have gotten my start through the OFA Fellowship and to be a part of the OFA family. And I know that the skills I learned and the relationships I developed will continue to serve me well in whatever path I choose next.

Want to get involved?

If you’re new to organizing or just want a refresher on the core set of organizing skills you’ll need to make a local impact, join the OFA Fellows program and learn how to make a difference in your community. You’ll be guided by a leader just like Chesney, who’ll help teach you everything you’ll need know in order to take action on the local issues that matters to you. Apply here (applications closing soon, so don’t delay).