YEA! MN Co-Chair Shira Breen
“What do we want?”
“When do we want them?”
Today I had the opportunity to attend the Youth Summit Organized by Outfront Minnesota and Safe Schools for All Coalition. The day began at the Metro State University St. Paul campus with four sets of workshops addressing a multitude of issues under the umbrella of bullying and creating safe schools for our communities.
As a member of START (Students Together as Allies for Racial Trust), a student group at Minneapolis South High School, I participated in a panel with fellow START members to discuss racial equity in our education system. From culturally inclusive curriculum, to how to be an authentic white ally, we tackled the issue of racism head on and learned from each other’s unique perspectives.
The School to Prison Pipeline workshop and LGBTQ Students in Schools workshops continued this discussion of injustice and oppression. There was a large focus on the disadvantages students of color, students with disabilities, and LGBTQ students face everyday, (not to discount the disadvantages experienced by other marginalized groups) and alternatively, the advantages white (or white-perceived) students are privileged enough to receive.
As the day went on, I met students from many different schools around the metro area and was able to network in order to push the conversations to stay alive after the event. Our voices echoed throughout the walls of the state capitol and I felt the power of the people build through the young, old, gay, straight, Muslim, Somali, African American, Catholic mass of passionate people, made up of teachers, parents, administrators, kids, and legislators that poured through the doors of the rotunda.
By fighting for LGBTQ rights, I am also fighting for youth to feel safe in their schools and receive an engaging education and continue to become agents for social justice and change. By working to end the school to prison pipeline, I am also fighting for the education and empowerment of under-resourced communities, which would allow sustainable solutions for environmental injustices to take root.
The cross-overs and intersectionalities between societal problems draws me to a wide range of issues and events. We need safe schools to exist in order for our youth to receive the education they need to become the future leaders of environmental justice and climate change our world needs so desperately. In order to adequately work towards creating a zero waste society where everyone has equal opportunities to adequate health and education, we need to build safe, supportive, strong communities to generate these essential conversations of justice and change.
A core program of the Will Steger Foundation, YEA! MN supports a network of high school environmental clubs working together across the Twin Cities Metro to empower student leadership on climate change solutions, facilitate shared skills and strategies, and take coordinated action at home, at school, and in the wider community.