The YEA! MN meeting on Monday, December 7th started out with the question: If you could describe your energy in a color, what would that color be? As the newest member of the group, this question was a wonderful way to introduce me to the spirit of YEA! MN. I had heard about the group through an event at my church, and wasn’t sure what to expect coming in. But from the moment I arrived in that room, I felt so welcome and included. Over the course of the two-hour meeting, my eyes were opened to this passionate new group of people and a truly incredible organization.
After introductions (and a fair bit of chocolate), the meeting began with a review of the YEA! MN “Theory of Change”. This theory describes the process of taking action to make positive change in society. First, we talked about the importance of exploring your own identity to understand how you can make an impact on the surrounding community. Through this discussion, I learned about the activities YEA! MN has already done this year, such as the identity walk. I believe that recognizing your own strengths, privileges, and oppressions is essential to knowing what you personally can bring to society as a whole. The next step in the “Theory of Change” is educating oneself about community needs and issues. With this knowledge, youth are more able to develop leadership, effective organizing techniques, and communication skills. After going through this process, youth are more prepared to take action and impact society.
At this point in the year, YEA! MN is moving into the action step phase. We have begun brainstorming ideas about possible action projects we can engage in that revolve around environmental justice. We are having one on one check-ins with a partner to ensure that the members of YEA! MN can take what they learned from our group meetings and apply it to their everyday lives. At last week’s meeting, we filled out a guide for taking action that asked about our passions, the needs of our community, and which projects we would like to work on to make the changes we want to see. This helped me to organize my thoughts and to voice the ideas that I have been thinking about for a while. I also learned a lot from hearing about the kinds of projects other people were interested in.
The group then went out in the hall to do some further brainstorming. We wrote down our questions about starting an action project, the resources we would need to do so, and our experiences in leading or training others. I was very impressed with the skills and experiences of each member in the group, and hearing from the others helped me understand more about taking action. We finished the meeting with some relaxing stretching and breathing exercises. Considering the fast paced nature of day-to-day life, it was extremely refreshing to take some time to be present and share that moment together.
YEA! MN provides an invaluable opportunity for young people to get involved in environmental justice, meet others who have shared passions, and truly make a change in the world. I am proud to be a part of this amazing group of youth and look forward to where it takes me in the future.