Student Feature | Penny Fellow Sarah Ortega

written by | Sarah Ortega


This summer I was selected to be a Political Leader of Tomorrow (PLOT) intern at the St. Paul nonprofit, Women Winning. As a PLOT intern, I was chosen to spend the summer amongst the next generation of political leaders in Minnesota. I navigated a political campaign and learned how to be successful in all levels of campaigning, from county commissioner to senator. Women Winning gave me hands-on experience by connecting me with a candidate who needed my skills at the campaign level. Thanks to the Timothy J. Penny State Public Service Fellowship, I interned for Senator Tina Smith’s campaign.  This scholarship afforded me many unique opportunities.  

I gained many skills as a PLOT intern this summer. As a PLOT intern I was assigned many mundane tasks, such as transcribe a meeting or enter data into a spreadsheet. While these tasks seemed meaningless, they all add up to the bigger picture and someone has to do them. I did not realize how big of an impact small tasks make in the political field.

At the campaign office, there were also other interns. A couple were other fellow PLOT interns, but most were other college students from around the state. I thoroughly enjoyed the group of interns I was amongst, and made many friends throughout the summer. We shared ideas, inspired each other, and helped Tina win the primaries!


The professional staff at the Tina Smith campaign office were also the best. The finance department and the communications department also had tasks for the interns to do. Everyone kept us busy. 

The Political Leaders of Tomorrow program was not just solely at the campaign office. Along with being an intern at the Tina Smith campaign, I also attended intensive trainings once a month. At these trainings, I learned skills I would take back to the campaign. For example, how to master phone banking or run a successful fundraiser. The monthly training sessions covered topics regarding the campaign field that will also apply to my everyday life, like how to communicate and listen to constituents. 

The best part of these trainings was the network of other PLOT interns I gained. I met many other women who aspire to be politicians of varying levels. Some women were in their early college careers, others were late 20’s and thinking about running for office. All the women I met were inspiring and I cannot wait to someday vote for them!

Thanks to the Penny Fellowship scholarship, I was able to take an unpaid internship. The experience, networking, and memories I gained this summer are priceless!