A Few Words from our Fall Penny Program Recipients | Part One

In fall 2016, we awarded two students the Timothy J. Penny State Public Service Fellowship. Both students wrote short summaries about themselves and their accomplishments allowing all of us to get to know them better!

Nelsie K. Yang - Penny State Fellowship Recipient 

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I am a senior at MSU, Mankato and I will graduate in May 2017 with a Bachelors of Science in Social Work. Since young, I have always had a passion for making a difference in my community. Part of this passion was sparked because I grew up poor and lived through racial/economic disparities in my community every day. The struggles I face as American-born Hmong can never compare to the struggle of my parents. As a result of the Hmong people's participation in helping the American CIA fight off communism during the Secret War in Laos, many Hmong people became refugees and resettled all over the world. In 1989, my parents took refuge in Duluth, Minnesota. There, their legacy continued with the birth of my four siblings and I. My parents and community are my biggest motivators in the work I do in community organizing. Even more, I am excited to pursue law school next fall. One day, I hope to run for office as a legislator or judge for the state of Minnesota. 

I am extremely thankful to the scholarship board, Students United representatives, and individuals who made the Penny Scholarship possible for myself and students. I am humbled that they have selected my story as one worthy of the state fellowship. I am merely a public servant who carries a vision to have a better community for all. Since the age of 14, I have picked up work at daycares, retail stores, and nonprofits until now. This fellowship gives me the opportunity to intern at the Ramsey County Public Defender's Office without constantly worrying how I will balance a full-time internship and job at the same time. Thank you for the opportunity and for making a difference in my life. 


Choukue Songmung - Penny State Fellowship Recipient 

I, Choukue Songmung, am a recipient of the Timothy J. Penny State Public Service Fellowship. I am currently a first year graduate student of Master of Public and Non-Profit Administration (MPNA) at Metropolitan State University. I am also a sophomore in information technology ITT at Century College. The reason why I chose to pursue my MPNA is that I am looking for an opportunity to align my passion with my long-term career goals in helping people. This fellowship will support me in becoming a leader as well as a non-profit manager at a reputable non-profit organization. I wanted to inspire others as well as help deserving, underprivileged people in the community.

The last two years while studying in MN has been very hard for me, but I enjoyed attending multicultural events at church and school. I also enjoyed attending regular church worship services and Bible class, neighbor visitation with my pastor, Rev. Vang, and Godmother, Ms. Petersen.  From these things, I have learned a lot about American culture from a new perspective. Through these experiences, I have learned the value of living with stress. We began to feel more fulfilled, more complete, more alive. Being aware of other people’s needs and concerns offers less stress, less anxiety, and less frustration in my own life.

I am a recipient for the Timothy J. Penny Fellowship because I am hardworking and am passionate about helping others. I like helping others because I realized that helping others offers many benefits. Since my family and I arrived in MN in 2014, we have struggled with severe economic hardship and financial difficulties, but I have had the opportunity to serve as an assistant in helping elderly people at St. Stephanus Lutheran Church. I assisted widows and widowers with yard and landscaping work on the weekends and during my school break. I also assisted in serving as church security for inter-city community events. I am also a member of the student parent center at Metropolitan State University and Century College.

Receiving this fellowship is a great success. It can reduce my risk of dropping out of school, and my pressure on having financial concerns, especially it would increase my chance in continuing on my MPNA. It would also maintain and reinforce my confidence at school. In addition, by earning the Timothy J. Penny Fellowship not only ensures success at school, it will also make me more prepared for and desirable to non-profits. Employers who understand the competition of this program would recognize it as an accomplishment. I believe that your financial assistance and your efforts would convince me to successfully achieve my academic and career goals with a government organization or non-profit organization. Through your financial assistance, I hope to reach my career goal as well as become a non-profit manager to help people in the future.

Thank you very much for your generosity and allowing me to explain how this fellowship will positively impact my future. I appreciate your financial assistance, which gives me more opportunities to achieve with my academic and career goals.