Penny Program: Nelsie Yang's Experience

I can recall perfectly the week that I worked 80 hours while attending school full time last fall. It was one of the most exhausting weeks I had in a long time, but it was also one of the most rewarding. That semester, I worked full time for the Mankato Democratic Farmer Labor. It was the final week of 2016 elections, and I never felt more determined to elect local representatives who would help keep college tuition costs low. Just like what I envisioned, the candidates I supported were victorious. My community repeatedly exemplified that change comes from the voice of every individual within the community. I discovered that I loved to do this work and be involved with my community. The work is exhausting, but the outcomes make the journey worth it. I have made a lifelong pledge to continue serving my community, and I am thankful that the Penny Scholarship provides college students the opportunity to do so while earning scholarship money to pay for school. Most of the time, community work is thankless and underappreciated. There’s often zero to little income earned in that field, especially for college students like me. Ever since being awarded the Penny Fellowship, I have been 100% stress-free about how to pay for college. I have devoted all my time toward interning at the Ramsey Public Defenders Office in order to prepare myself for law school. I would not have been able to attend school this semester without the support of the Penny Fellowship fund because my internship is full time and unpaid. I am especially grateful for the Penny Scholarship funders who make my internship possible!

I have interned at the Ramsey Public Defenders Office since January 2017. It is one of the most thrilling experiences I have had in the criminal law system. My mindset has transformed completely from day one at the office. I started my internship with the typical mindset that all criminals are deviant and deserve to be incarcerated I am finishing up my internship soon with a big heart and understanding for individuals who commit crime and the neglectful background that might have caused them to do that. I discovered that I enjoy being in the courtroom the most. I grew up watching Judge Judy, which influenced me at a young age to aspire becoming a judge. It is amazing that the opportunities I am exploring will help guide me toward reaching that dream. I created many new friendships in this office, and I plan to return to public defense once I am done with college. I am attending law school this fall, and no matter how busy I am, I will always make time for being an advocate in my community. Thank you to the Penny Fellowship funders for making my journey possible and bump-free this semester. I encourage all students to apply for this amazing scholarship because your community work is valued and important to everyone who makes the Penny Fellowship possible!

If you are interested in applying for the Penny Program, or any other scholarships, please click here for more information. Applications are due April 1st. If you have any questions, you can contact Carlee Diggins, Director of Programs and Alumni Outreach, at




Nelsie Yang