By Alison Spencer, WFMN Strategic Communications Intern
The Women’s Foundation of Minnesota (WFMN) celebrates the leadership of six Young Women’s Cabinet members of the Young Women’s Initiative of Minnesota (YWI MN) as they transition into the next phase of their lives. The Young Women’s Cabinet, comprised of 25 young women and youth leaders from diverse communities across Minnesota, works with WFMN, YWCA St. Paul, the Governor’s Office, and cross-sector leaders to advance gender and racial equity in the state. As the Cabinet members begin a new phase of their lives, whether heading off to college or into the workforce, their contributions to YWI MN will continue to make a deep impact in community.
Nena Abosi graduated from Central High School and will begin her first year at Howard University in the fall. With an interest in pursuing pharmacy, Nena will study health sciences and can’t wait to immerse herself in the college experience. “Women are going to be the catalysts” for change, Nena said, and she knows she can help in “leading by example and inspiring others to do the same.” Her time on the Young Women’s Cabinet has provided her with a new perspective, she said, forever changing the way she walks through the world.
Newly graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in social work, Grace Espinoza hopes to continue discovering new passions through her work with Elm Creek Elementary, a Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School. Historically, such schools were formed as an alternative education program for African Americans during the civil rights movement, and Grace’s work will focus on improving youth literacy skills. As a Cabinet member, Grace says she learned how to advocate for what she believes in and to find her voice in uncomfortable spaces. She is eager to help give voice to the diverse stories of her students. Grace describes herself as endlessly determined and jumps into life after college eager to enact positive change. She sees women as “essential to the future,” and recognizes that their leadership is exactly what the world needs.
As part of the Young Women’s Cabinet, Brook LaFloe has learned much about “what it means to be a woman and how [she is] refined by cultural values as an Ojibwa woman.” Recognizing her own struggles and privileges, Brook approaches her life and work more critically, using her experience “to take on the world [and] provide inspiration and guidance.” Graduating from Loyola University Maryland this September, she will continue to share her knowledge and “good medicine” as an early childhood educator at the Montessori American Indian Childcare Center. Brook will also work with YWCA St. Paul in shaping the future of the Young Women’s Cabinet. With the network she has built, Brook feels excited to dive fully into her work and into serving her communities to positively impact those around her. “I think my work starts small, but I hope my impact is quite large,” she said.
Rakeb Max will join the Providence College class of 2022 as a Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholar. She plans to study economics and/or political science and looks forward to “living in an environment where esoteric exploration is not an utter abnormality, but a commonality of interest” among her peers. Rakeb believes that her time on the Young Women’s Cabinet has equipped her with the skills to initiate pragmatic change and accomplish her goals. Learning both professionalism and networking has given her the confidence to excel in a variety of professional circles.
Anna Singhathip is heading to the University of Minnesota this fall to study physiology and pre-med. Along with reveling in a new level of independence on campus, she is eager to share the knowledge and perspective she gained on the Cabinet and to continue the conversations begun in those meetings. Anna understands that young women like herself have a crucial role in changing the world, and that even the smallest actions are crucial to creating systems change. The Cabinet provided Anna with “a space to feel comfortable sharing her thoughts and growing her confidence.”
Graduating from North High, Katelyn Vue will attend the University of Minnesota and study journalism. Katelyn is excited to expand her network and build connections that will help her develop both professionally and personally. Through her time on the Cabinet, Katelyn has come to understand the importance of storytelling in breaking down barriers and combating disparities. As a journalist, she’s “passionate to share those stories and make sure every young woman has the chance to thrive.”
Young women in Minnesota are driving solutions and change now, community by community. Working across a variety of fields, these Cabinet members will continue to create positive impacts as they move into college and the workforce. As a group, they share that their time on the Young Women’s Cabinet helped develop their confidence, leadership, strong networks, and commitment to systems change.