The Youth Democracy Summit on January 17th was an extremely powerful and motivating experience. It was inspiring to see such a multitude of strong, smart, and driven young organizers all in one place. Going to the small-group panel on sustainable transportation in the 21st century was interesting to me because I was able to gain a perspective on the transportation issues that are present in greater Minnesota. Growing up in Minneapolis, I have always had many different transportation options available to me. I have the luxury of great bike lanes and bus routes that can efficiently get me anywhere in the city. People living in places like Mankato or Duluth don’t have those options, which then becomes an equity issue. I wasn’t aware of these things until we discussed them in a group with people living all around the state.
The large-group panel about Ferguson was very inspiring as well. As a young person, I felt that the youth organizers on the panel was especially important to me. The way they could command a room with how they spoke made me believe that I can do the same thing. After their discussion, I now feel like I am part of a real movement that is happening right now and will make a real difference for the future.
Despite how amazing all these speakers were, the highlight of the day for me was leading my first training. Natalie, the YEA! MN Coordinator, and I led a lobbying training designed to teach people who have little to no lobbying experience learn the basics of how to talk to their legislator. I had never led a training before, so it was a little daunting standing at the front of a room full of people older than myself. But I am naturally comfortable at presenting, so after a moment I was collected and ready to go. I talked to the audience about why we lobby and the basic process of how a bill becomes a law. Natalie created the training and was much more comfortable with the whole thing, so she led the group activity and most of the other segments. After how smoothly the whole presentation went, I feel like I am ready to do lots of other group trainings in the future.
Though not directed at any particular event, our lobby training was done in anticipation of the Minnesota Clean Energy and Jobs Day at the Capitol. We will be lobbying for a 40% renewable energy standard in Minnesota by 2030. The current energy standard calls for 25% renewable by 2025, which we are already on pace to break. Youth from all around the state will gather at Christ Lutheran Church near the Capitol to learn more about the renewable energy standard and how to effectively lobby their legislators. Then each student will get to meet with both their state senator and representative to talk about the renewable energy standard, as well as share any other issues that are important to them. As our representatives, it is their job to listen to what we care about, and lobby day is a great opportunity to show that as youth, together our voice can be heard. In the afternoon I will help facilitate a youth-only meeting with Governor Dayton along with student leaders from our partner organizations to further make clear what we want our state to look like in the future. I am so excited for this opportunity to show the Governor my ideas about what the future of Minnesota should be and that together youth have amazing power!