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31 May, 2013

Minnesota Gives Youth A Voice In Laws That Directly Affect Them


ST. PAUL, Minn.–(BUSINESS WIRE)– May 24, 2013 – For the first time in state history, Minnesota youth have an official voice in legislation that affects them directly, through passage of the Minnesota Youth Council Committee Bill on Wednesday, May 22 — part of the education finance omnibus bill.

The Minnesota Youth Council draws 72 youth and adult representatives from all congressional districts statewide — including eight representatives who serve “at-large” — in a unique partnership to address issues of interest to young people. The bill formalizes a relationship that has been underway since 2005, led by the Minnesota Alliance With Youth (the Alliance). Eighth- through twelfth-grade council members provide guidance to the legislature, governor and Department of Education on issues affecting young people.


As Sarah Dixon, the Alliance’s president and CEO, said, “Youth voice is now the law!”

Already the council has developed and administered a statewide survey assessing top issues of concern to young people, made more than 65 visits to legislators to share information on the bill, and testified before both houses. Of these efforts, council member Nick Plaza, a senior at Kennedy Secondary School in Fergus Falls, most enjoyed “connecting issues in my community to a statewide stage” by meeting with his legislators. This year the council had the added support of Minneapolis-based youth intermediary Youthprise and the nonprofit youthrive, partners in building youth capacity to lead change in their communities.

Minnesota is one of fewer than a dozen states to formalize this relationship between policymakers and those too young to vote. “The signing of this bill is the first step in providing opportunities for youth all across Minnesota to be part of the legislative process,” said Kori Redepenning, Alliance director of engagement and policy.

Council member Kevin Nguyen — a sophomore at St. Paul’s Highland Park High School — is already thinking beyond Minnesota. “I hope the Minnesota Youth Council becomes one of the models for other upcoming state councils in the U.S.,” he said.

Dixon added, “Youth voice has been an integral part of the Alliance’s work since our inception. Passage of this law underscores its importance.”

The Minnesota Alliance With Youth is the leading convener, collaborator and capacity-builder for youth development in Minnesota. To learn more, visit www.mnyouth.net.


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