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Watch NOW: Rising Star Tricia Wehrenberg

From the COLLECTION: Meet the 2021 Rising Stars Under 40 series
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Tricia Wehrenberg

Tricia Wehrenberg

Tricia Wehrenberg is a member of the 2021 Rising Stars Under 40 recognized by the 7 Rivers Alliance and the River Valley Media Group.

Age as of Sept. 1, 2021: 32 years old

Town of residence: Winona

Occupation/company: Youth Services Librarian at Winona Public Library

Family: Two senior Yorkies

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

While I'm proud of a number of things I've been able to do within my community, I would say one of my proudest professional accomplishments was organizing and implementing the distribution of free books along student lunch routes in April 2020 while schools were in distance learning. There were several bus routes spanning the entirety of Winona County, with 100 or more stops on each route. Some routes were 90+ miles round-trip. In the end, we were able to distribute over 1,500 free books to elementary, middle, and high school students during one of the most isolating times of the COVID-19 pandemic. I was able to meet families where they were and gift them a little bit of happiness and connection.

Please tell us what community and volunteer activities you’re involved with – and why?

I am the president of a nonprofit in Winona called Ready Set School. This organization works to ensure Winona County students start the school year feeling prepared by distributing vouchers that help cover the cost of school supplies and clothing for K-12 students. I've been a part of this board for three years, and I'm very passionate about the work we do. The impact of arriving at school on the first day with the supplies you need can affect a student's trajectory throughout the rest of the school year. In addition, we also provide assistance to teachers throughout Winona County so they don't have to dip into their own pocket to help fill the needs of a child. I’m also a member of the Winona International Friendship Association, and donate time and money to Box of Balloons, an organization that prepares everything needed for a birthday celebration for a child in need.

Tell us what inspired you to be a leader in your organization and in your community.

Public libraries are an interesting creature. Many people think they're just repositories for books. On the contrary, librarians are agents of change. As a librarian, I've always felt that my role in the community is to bring assistance to those who need it, reach those who are underrepresented, and to support my community in any way I can. At the beginning of my career, I recognized that I had a unique opportunity to be an advocate for caregivers and children. Supporting children in each step of their development is extremely important to me, whether this be academically, economically, or in a social-emotional sense. Keeping this in the forefront of my work has always helped me to stay focused on creating incremental positive change in my community.

What advice would you offer younger leaders to aid their success?

Don't be afraid to recognize your strength and your passion. There are times when others will try to downplay what you do as something that isn't "important" in their view of the world. We all have a chance to impact those around us; some in larger ways and some in smaller ways. Be proud of the impact you have. I've always subscribed to the notion that if you're passionate about what you do, it will show in the quality of your work.

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