“Welcome Leaders!” was the first sentence I read as I was handed a program at Outfront Minnesota’s 2015 annual Youth Summit last Monday. It was 8:30am and the Wellstone Center was already full of motivated and friendly high school students decked out in purple t-shirts conversing with each other. In 15 minutes we’d be scattered across the building hosting and attending trainings on justice and equity in our communities. I was anxious to present a session on effective school clubs to my peers, but the program’s reminder that youth are leaders and my composed co-presenters from YEA!MN boosted my confidence.
The day proved to be just as inspiring and engaging as I expected. Students my age from all over the state hosted a dozen interesting workshops, such as “GSA’s: How to Make Yours Effective, Inclusive, & Fun!”, “Art in Action” and “Putting the Sexy in Sex Ed.” I headed over to “Black Lives Matter: Revolutionary Youth” first and found the room almost full. We took time to address stereotypes adults label young people as, like “inexperienced” or “lazy,” then debunked them through historic narratives and personal stories. I learned about youth that mobilized against racism through the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during the 1960s and my peers’ current campaigns. It was powerful to remind ourselves of the resiliency of activists, past and present, and how we can emulate those strengths in our work. Later, I had the opportunity to attend “Trans Youth Speak Out,” a panel session led by two transgender student leaders. The energy in the room deepened my commitment to listen and find ways to become a better ally to transgender people. Overall, my general disappointment of the summit was that I couldn’t take part in all of workshops!
The three of us from YEA!MN led a session entitled, “Building Youth Power in Your School.” Our training was designed around recruitment and leadership building- two aspects we personally encountered within student groups that we felt were challenging yet important. We taught about the difference between passive recruitment and active recruitment, went deeper into how to have one-on-one recruitment conversations and how to develop leaders using the leadership ladder. I had never presented a workshop before, but I was relieved. Previously practicing my segment ended up being more awkward than the actual training! It felt awesome to be a source of help for students at other schools using experience from YEA!MN. We ended up dedicating some of our time to collectively give advice to individual clubs that attended, such as the GSA from the School for Environmental Studies’ campaign for gender-neutral bathrooms.
The connections I made with student activists across Minnesota was the most important takeaway I got from the 2015 Youth Summit. I learned from passionate peers about social issues that affect us as students as well as strategies to solve them. I’m thankful for Outfront for giving us the opportunity to present a workshop through YEA!MN in a LGBTQA-centered space- demonstrating the importance of intersectionality in the movement for justice and equity. I will be back next year!