ONE step closer: A reflection on my time with the ONE Campaign

This blog is guest authored by Kate Sherpardson, who graduated in May and was the founder and Campus Leader of ONE at the University of Wisconsin- La Crosse. Follow Kate and her post-grads plans via Twitter @KatieShepardson.

“People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.”

Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

In my time at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, I fell in love with ONE. I fell in love with being an advocate for development and for the well-being of our global society. But I would never have known that love and passion if Shawn Phetteplace, ONE’s Great Lakes Regional Director, hadn’t called me to ask if I wanted to start a ONE Campus chapter.

When Shawn asked me to start my chapter I was incredibly hesitant. I had signed a ONE petition online a few weeks prior and I loved everything about ONE — but I was a student-athlete, in over my head with my schoolwork, and working when I wasn’t in class. To start an organization from the ground up at UWL would take time and resources and skills that I didn’t believe I had.

But I did it! This May, I graduated from UWL and I couldn’t help but reflect on my experience as a ONE Campus Leader. I didn’t quite realize the obstacles I would face trying to bring ONE to campus, but through persistence and patience, it was an experience I’ll carry with me beyond as I head to graduate school in the fall. I want to share with you some pieces of advice if you’re facing challenges or want a pick-me-up.

First bit of advice: There are role models everywhere, especially at ONE. You do NOT have to do it alone. Find someone who makes you the best leader and advocate you can be. It’ll work out from there.

My best friend Taryn decided to join me as a ONE Campus Leader. We worked for about a year to get ONE recognized as an official student organization at UWL. During our first campaign as a fully recognized student organization, Taryn and I were able to place in the top three of campuses nationally with basically just the two of us working, calling, petitioning, and reporting our actions way late. (Sorry, Fady!)

Once we were approved as an organization, we hit the ground running planning events, movie screenings, tabling events, and general membership meetings. By the end of its first year on campus, ONE at UWL had recruited around ten new members and had an ever-growing email alert list for the campus community.

Last tabling event of the semester! #CantStopWontStop #150Account

A post shared by ONE UW La Crosse (@onecampusuwl) on

This past year, we sent a new crew to the ONE Power Summit, created our own mini-Summit on campus, organized more movie screenings, held more meetings, and had the opportunity to build stronger connections to our in-district congressional offices. We encouraged our administration to sign the Poverty is Sexist letter, engaged our student government, and at the end of Spring 2017, we had 65 individuals on our email list who get weekly updates and action requests. We brought in a new era of ONE leadership at UWL, creating a sustainable chapter here.

My second piece of advice: When questioning whether you can or cannot do something, first ask yourself “Why not me?”

I got to meet the late Michael Elliott, ONE’s former president and CEO, during my first visit to Washington at the 2015 ONE Power Summit. Michael’s sudden death in July 2016 was an incredibly sad moment in my life; he had a way of making every person speaking to him feel important. I remember speaking with him, and he told me to “keep going, to keep dreaming.”

Last piece of advice: Tenacity is the key to success. Be stubborn when fighting for the sake of others.

ONE was the first step I took to becoming the individual I believe I am called to be. It is ingrained into me. The work, the discomfort of talking to strangers, and the strength to fight for what we believe in…ONE laid that entire foundation and I couldn’t be more grateful, humbled, and honored for the opportunities it has provided me.

In September, I will begin a new path in London. I promise I won’t forget — nor will I ever stop — advocating the way ONE taught me to. I promise I will be back and ready to rejoin the ranks of my fellow U.S. ONE members with more tools, skills, and knowledge to improve that future we all know to be real: a world without extreme poverty and preventable disease, and a world where every girl has the opportunity to pursue an education like mine.

Thank you to my ONE family for bringing me ONE step closer to my dreams.

Do you want to follow in Kate’s footsteps and become a Campus Leader? Start here!