On Friday, June 13, over 200 youth and adults from across Minnesota gathered at Hamline University for the Minnesota Alliance With Youth and Minnesota Youth Council’s Statewide Summit: Ignite Youth Voice for Change. Supported by a strategic partnership with youthrive and Youthprise, as well as State Farm, the event was a culmination of eight district summits during 2013 and 2014. Ignite Youth Voice for Change brought together youth, community leaders, elected officials, nonprofits, and Minnesota Youth Council members to share youth perspective, mobilize youth voice, celebrate ongoing work, hear from experts, and gain new skills.
Keynote speaker Julia Sewell, a spoken word artist, motivational speaker, and published poet, started the day with a rousing message about the power of youth voice, telling the audience, “You are never too young to be great.” With that inspiring message in mind, participants broke out into workshops across campus. Summit attendees had their choice of a wide variety of topics, including using personal experience to change attitudes about drug and alcohol abuse, rules of engaged leadership, service learning and the achievement gap, mentoring relationships, peace building, and artistic expression. Workshops were facilitated by the Minnesota Youth Council Education Committee, National Youth Leadership Council, Know The Truth, youthrive, and Mentoring Partnership of Minnesota.
Youth gathered back together for a networking lunch introduced by John Gomperts, President and CEO of America’s Promise Alliance, the Alliance’s national affiliate. Mr. Gomperts shared information about the exciting advances being made nationwide to ensure that all youth graduate from high school on time, prepared for success in work, school, and life. Over sandwiches and cookies, youth then shared with nonprofit leaders and elected officials the challenges, opportunities, and experiences facing their peers both in and out of school, giving adults a first-hand insight into the most pressing youth issues.
At the end of the day, participants gathered again to reflect on the day’s conversations and share their final thoughts. As the youth participants streamed out of the conference hall, Frank Wagner, Minnesota Youth Council Manager, said goodbyes with a big smile and an energized voice. “The summit was a unique opportunity for youth to join together to share their experiences and perspectives,” Frank comments. “Today was a catalyst for conversation and change in our communities.”