Carolyn Bogott: A focus on helping others

Published 6:11 pm Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Jenni Braaten radiates intelligence, compassion, and sincerity.  She currently works as a clinical social worker for Mayo Health Systems in Austin. Just meeting her, you would feel safe in  working on your problems with her. Her eyes focus on you in a way that inspires trust.

Having “always felt a passion to try to advocate for people who don’t have fairness in their lives,” Jenni majored in social work at the University of Minnesota. Her first employment was with Catholic Charities.

She then spent eight years in Cozumel, Mexico teaching English. In that experience she learned much about appreciating cultural differences and valuing a variety of experiences. Next, she spent 15 years as a school social worker in Albert Lea, working with at-risk students who had challenging and traumatic home lives. One issue she dealt with was working for free access to feminine hygiene products for students. This issue has recently been in the national news as a newly recognized issue of sexual discrimination. She also led fundraisers to provide food, clothing, and school supplies to struggling students.

Jenni believes deeply that, “all people should have equal opportunity to achieve what they want in life. And you can’t pick and choose among human rights. You need to believe in all of them.”

To that end, she has been active in the leadership of our Austin Human Rights Commission. One of the projects that she had helped to develop is the fall Welcoming Week which honors our cultural diversity with personal stories, panel discussions, food, games, dance, music, and more. Other projects the Human Rights Commission sponsors are the Mexican Day of the Dead celebration at Riverland Community College, Pride Day celebrations, and Martin Luther King Day observances.

Leadership in Austin AAUW has also been a way Jenni has carried out her belief in equal opportunity for all.  She has served as AAUW Austin program co-chair for three years. She also brought the idea to our branch to provide the community with “The Story Show,” which will be our third annual fundraiser on Jan. 7, 2023.  This is an evening to hear eight Austin residents from various “walks of life” tell their personal stories on a theme. “Opportunity” will be the theme this time. As well as raising funds for AAUW-sponsored scholarships for mature and returning students at Riverland, this event has proven to be a gift to the community in building connections among the story tellers and the audience.

Growing up on a farm near Austin, Jenni developed a deep love for horses and continues to cherish these companions. She says they are an important part of her personal emotional support system. She also practices self-care with running and walking.

Jenni says she works with her clients to help them realize that “even when bad things happen there are opportunities to learn and grow in the midst of those challenges.”   That is a hard message to hear when a person is in the depths of despair, but if anyone could convey this message believably, Jenni  Braaten could.  Jenni is a gift to Austin!