Aaisha is the civic engagement coordinator at Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment (RISE), engaging young Muslim women in grassroots activism and amplifying their voices to create systemic changes. She has lobbied for the MN State Grant to the Teachers of Color Act to address the disparities in the education system impacting students of color. She served as the chair for the Student Advisory Council at the Office of Higher Education where she advocated for students at the Capitol and was a policy analyst. She currently serves on the Minnesota Education Equity Partnership, Girls on the Run Twin Cities, and Ramsey County Equity Action Circle Policy & Practices Committee.
Sara is a senior at Stillwater High School and plans to attend the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities to major in biochemistry and minor in neuroscience. Sara is a part of the SAHS School Leaders Board where she works with District 834 administrators to create a safer space for people of color in the school district. Sara also volunteers as a physical therapist’s assistant at the Regions Hospital rehabilitation center. She anticipates going to medical school and becoming a board-certified surgeon.
Jennifer is a junior attending White Bear Lake Area Schools. She is an enrolled member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, and she also takes pride in her Muscogee Creek and African American heritage. Locally, she is bringing awareness about inequitable school systems and protecting our earth and water. Jennifer is on the White Bear Lake Area School Board as the student liaison and contributed to the school’s strategic plan. She has a strong passion for learning as much as she can about social justice. In the future, she hopes to attend college and pursue an education administration license.
Millenium is a sophomore transfer at Augsburg University studying political science. In summer of 2020, she helped to build and restore affordable housing units with Habitat for Humanity Twin Cities. As a board member of the Black Student Association at the College of Saint Benedict, she worked to bring awareness to the experiences and contributions of Black students on campus. At St. Ben’s, she tutored K-12 students from Saint Cloud Public School Districts. She is most passionate about working to provide adequate housing, education, and economic opportunities for the Black community.
María Arreola is a senior at Macalester College studying Political Science and Sociology with a minor in Spanish and Theater and Dance. She is a Mellon Mays Fellow and a former INCE Museum Fellow. María is interested in “artivism” and the role of creativity in enacting change. She considers herself a playwright. Recently, one of her plays was selected for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival.
From Waubun, Elizabeth Ozaawigwanikwe (Brown Feather Woman), known as Ozaawaa, is a tribally enrolled member of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Chippewa from Wisconsin. She is also a tribal descendant of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa from Belcourt, North Dakota. She grew up on the White Earth Reservation. As a participant of Close Up, she traveled to Washington, D.C., and gained a better understanding of history and government by getting to meet Minnesota representatives. Ozaawaa has had many strong women as mentors, including her Grandmother, Kookum Betty Migizikwe Laverdure, and a homeless liaison, Ms. Diana King, who has helped guide her. Support from family and community, along with practicing her traditional cultural values and beliefs has been central to developing her strength as a young woman.
As a second year student at Hamline University, Calonna plans to major in Biology and minor in Music. Calonna is especially proud of her Native American (Mdewakanton Sioux) and African American heritage. She plans to become a veterinarian and hopes to use music therapy in her practice. In Hamline’s HU-Lead Pathway program, she participated in team-building activities and discussions about leadership development, social justice through community service, diversity and inclusion, and health and wellness. She has lobbied with Proof Alliance, formally MOFAS, at the Day at the Capitol where she met with legislators to discuss fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. During high school, Calonna enjoyed varsity track, USA Gymnastics where she competed at State, Regional and Western competitions, vocal and instrumental music, theater and advocating for educational services for people with disabilities.
Mariana graduated from Hamline University in 2020 with a double major in Criminal Justice and Legal Studies with a Paralegal Certificate and a Spanish Certificate. She works at a local immigration law firm as a paralegal where she has learned valuable career and life skills. Through Mariana’s work with immigrants, she has found a passion for advocating for immigrant rights. In the future, Mariana would like to attend law school and become an immigration or criminal attorney. When time permits, Mariana enjoys traveling to see her family in Chicago and Guadalajara. During her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, friends, and puppy, Tito.
Britney is a sophomore majoring in history with a minor in Chicano studies at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Britney hosts a political and social commentary radio show that discusses the realities of being a low-income, first-generation American. She is a founder of META, a mutual aid organization focused on delivering resources to BIPOC communities in the Twin Cities. She is also a member of the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee, an organization providing resources and aid to Minnesotan immigrants in need. Britney also helped create a Chicano Ethnic Studies class for District 196 high schools called Adelante! which introduces Chicano politics, literature, and the 1960s movement to Chicano students. Britney hopes to lead a career in educational reform through lifting the voices of Black, Brown, and other marginalized students.
Athena is an enrolled member of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians and a recent graduate of Augsburg University, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and American Indian Studies. Athena is an American Indian educator for the Robbinsdale School District, specializing in working with Native youth across the district as a member of the Indian Education Department. Athena has worked diligently to address disparities that affect American Indian communities across the state. As a former Miss Red Lake Nation Princess, Athena served a one-year term to represent the Nation. She works with Native Nations and community programs to initiate Mino-Bimaadiziwin, a good life, with others. By using what she calls Powwow Zumba, Athena is helping to promote healthy lifestyles by hyping participants to get active using traditional powwow dancing with a twist. She has also shared her story to motivate Native youth to keep pushing through the barriers of systems that were not designed for them. Athena is very proud of the work she has done and will continue to do to pave the way for the next generation of American Indian leaders.
Originally from Chicago, Shimarrion was raised by her uncle due to the early death of her parents. She has overcome barriers in life, which have made her the fierce and ambitious person she is today. Shimarrion moved to Minnesota for better opportunities to create a future of safety and stability for herself and her children. Being self-motivated and resourceful, she has secured housing, learned how to parent, maintained work through an internship working with homeless youth, and is a member of Irreducible Grace, a support community for youth struggling with trauma and seeking healing. Shimarrion is also an advocate for affordable housing and eliminating mental health stigmas in the African American community. Thus far, her journey has instilled in her a passion for working with homeless youth and taking opportunities to give encouragement by sharing her story.
Deilyah ‘Asin’ Dexter is an enrolled member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, and as a leader within her community, has dedicated her time to fighting for racial justice and speaking out against the injustices experienced by Native youth. Asin is a first-generation student at Bemidji State University majoring in Indigenous Studies and minoring in the Ojibwe Language. She serves as President of the Council of Indian Students and is a coordinator for the Ojibwe Language table.
Finora graduated from St. Edward’s University magna cum laude with a bachelor’s in global studies with a focus on international security and Asian studies. While at St. Edward’s, Finora helped create an on-campus campaign to increase equity and inclusion training for all staff to ensure student safety. Finora’s passion for racial and gender equity is embedded in all avenues of her life, and this passion led to her becoming a Lead for Minnesota Fellow. Through her fellowship, she works with the City of Duluth as a Visibility Coordinator, where she works with historically marginalized groups to support their voices while simultaneously ensuring that the city has the infrastructure to uplift those communities.
Trinity is a junior at St. Michael-Albertville High School. She is captain of the speech and debate team, a two-time national qualifier, and ranked fifth in the state. She is on the Minnesota Youth Council, which focuses on legislation and community organization. She is the chapter head of Beyond Resolved, where she writes curriculum training to promote equity in the debate space. Last year, she founded the Women’s Advocacy Club, which assembled a protest against police brutality, put together a menstrual product drive, and lobbied at the State Capitol. Trinity strives to promote social justice through grassroots activism and policy.
Gabrielle is a senior at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities studying sociology with a focus in policy analysis. She has been a member of Alpha Phi, where she participated in philanthropic events, and a member of The Women’s Network, a women-led network connecting college students and professional leaders. Gabrielle is Bdewakantunwan and an enrolled member at the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. She was secretary of the SMSC Youth Leadership Council (YLC) in high school. Gabrielle aspires to attend business or law school and pursue a career where she will make a better future for her community.
Helen (pronounced HAY-Len) is a junior at Washburn High School in Minneapolis. Adopted from Ethiopia at age six, she grew up in a white family navigating both American and Ethiopian cultures. As a BIPOC youth, she encourages other youth to speak up about political issues in their communities, on the streets, and in social media. Helen connects other youth to community resources on topics such as mental health, safety, and Black joy. She also actively challenges educators to rethink how they teach traditionally white-centered narratives and curriculum. In the next few years, Helen hopes to attend college while continuing to give back to her community.
Scout Holding Eagle
Scout is a junior at Moorhead High School. She is a proud member of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation. Scout hopes to major in public policy or international relations. She is interested in combining legislative action with community activism to create community-centered solutions to the problems facing Minnesotans and the world. She is especially passionate about LGBTQ+ issues, Native communities, and health and education disparities in Minnesota. Scout is a co-captain of her debate team, a category captain of her speech team, and involved in theater tech. She is a cofounder of a progressive reform club at her school.
Evelyn grew up on a farm in Wanamingo, Minn., and is studying political science at Hamline University with a minor in business analytics. Her interest in politics began early and she has always admired leaders who advocate for and represent voices that are not often heard. Growing up with a stutter, Evelyn always felt that her voice was not as important because she couldn’t speak as clearly. In 2018, Evelyn became Kenyon-Wanamingo High School’s first state champion in public speaking. After completing the Minnesota High School Page Program at the Minnesota State Capitol, she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and has been an advocate for health-related issues. While interning with State Senator Matt Little, Evelyn focused on legislation that would lower insulin prices across Minnesota.
Nibraas is a third year student at the University of Minnesota majoring in global studies, with concentrations in the Islamic world and human rights, and political science, with a minor in public health and Arabic. She is the daughter of Bangladeshi immigrants and uses her upbringing, unique identities, and passion for others to navigate spaces that don’t traditionally include her or others. With this in mind, she’s been a student advocate for non-citizens and immigrants, racial equity, raising the minimum wage, and environmental protection on campus. She is the current advocacy chair for DISHA, a student group dedicated to advocacy for and with South Asian/Desi women, nonbinary, trans, and gender nonconforming people while also collaborating with other BIPOC people to uplift all.
Jaeden “Biizhikens” King is an enrolled member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe from Onamia, Minn., and is a descendent from the Red Lake Nation. She is currently in her first year at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities studying pre-law and the Ojibwe language. She is a voice for the Native youth in her community and is actively working to help preserve the Ojibwe language. She has participated in her tribe’s youth program for seven years delivering community service and spreading awareness about drug use and gang activity. Jaeden was the student representative for the local Indian Parent Committee for ISD 480. She worked to promote mental and physical wellness for youth in her community through her high school’s UNITY chapter.
Sabrina is a senior at St. Catherine University where she is pursuing an undergraduate degree in public health education and promotion along with a graduate degree in global health. At school, Sabrina is part of the Antonian Honors program, the International Student Organization, and has worked as a peer health educator. She enjoys public health because it allows her to work with diverse communities and to contribute to health equity, racial equity, and social justice, which are principles that guide her career.
Amal is a sophomore at Jefferson High school, where she strives to achieve her aspirations and excels on the debate and speech team. Amal is part of the Bloomington Anti-racist Coalition, where she has coordinated several events. With a diverse background as a Somali-Indian-Yemeni- American, Amal finds strength in passion. She enjoys poetry, has had several pieces published in the school newspaper, loves to draw and paint emotions.
Chynna Moua is a second-generation Hmong Canadian student at the University of Saint Thomas and a multidisciplinary artist who developed her art while growing up in the Twin Cities. She has found healing through her art in writing poetry and performing hip-hop dance. She has taught dance abroad, at local community centers, and at studios for youth. Chynna has competed and advanced in poetry slams and produced Central High School’s first multicultural show. Chynna strives to create safe spaces and accessible opportunities to engage and inspire new generations through art.
A senior at Worthington High School and a PSEO Student at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Nayzeth comes from a single-parent household that includes her mom and sister. She plans to graduate high school with her associate degree in general education. Nayzeth has recently been advocating for students and adults by bringing attention to issues in her Worthington community, especially driven by the racially charged media stories about her hometown. Nayzeth is also involved in a number of college-bound organizations and school clubs, and her work has been highlighted in newspaper publications. If she is not in class or conducting advocacy, Nayzeth can be found in her school library. She is a violinist, loves running, and enjoys watching shows and videos on Netflix or YouTube.
Anisa Omar recently graduated from Minnesota State University Mankato with a degree in political science and a minor in ethnic studies. Anisa is committed to creating an equitable and just society for all individuals inclusive of race, gender, ethnicity, nationality, and social class. Anisa serves on multiple organizations and committees such as YWCA Mankato, Ignite the Youth, Ignite Women in Politics, and the Mankato Public Safety Advisory Committee. Anisa aspires to attend law school in the Fall of 2022 and is currently preparing for the LSAT.
Rahi is a junior Neuroscience major at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. In 2019, she spent a month volunteering in Ahmedabad, India. While there, she taught 5th grade English, math, science, and Gujarati, and helped facilitate discussions on women’s health at a local women’s center. In Minnesota, Rahi volunteers at the Domestic Abuse Project and participates in research on Parkinson’s Disease and HIV. In the future, Rahi plans to attend medical school and pursue a career that enables her to continue advocating for women’s health and address health disparities in her community and beyond.
Jaidyn is Bdewakantunwan (Spirit Lake Dwellers) Dakota and comes from Cansayapi (Where They Paint the Trees Red), otherwise known as Lower Sioux. Jaidyn is a sophomore at Harvard University where she is on the pre-med track studying psychology and ethnicity, migration, & rights. Jaidyn completed a Short-Term Research Experience for Underrepresented Persons (STEP-UP) internship in summer 2018, presented her findings at the National Institutes of Health, and became a published researcher. At school, she is the Vice President of Natives at Harvard College (NaHC) and is an alumnus of the Emerging Scholars Program’s class of 2023 cohort. Jaidyn hopes to go to medical school and become a pediatrician. Jaidyn is passionate about mental health and social justice work, as well as advocacy surrounding more diversity in STEM-related spaces.
Ashley is a senior at the College of Saint Benedict & St. John’s University majoring in political science with a minor in Hispanic studies and history. In college, she works as a restorative justice facilitator and programming coordinator for Intercultural & International Student Services (IISS). During the summer of 2020, Ashley was involved with a youth- and BIPOC-led group that organized a free grocery store open to the community located in South Minneapolis called Mercado El Colegio. The donation-based store provides necessities to community members facing the impacts of COVID-19. Ashley was also a PODER Fellow with UnidosMN, involved with the St. Cloud cohort to encourage BIPOC communities to complete voter registration for the 2020 presidential election. Ashley hopes to continue her passion in an advocacy career by attending law school or graduate school.
Mercedes Van Cleve
Mercedes Van Cleve is an enrolled member of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community and a student at the University of Minnesota where she is completing her degree in American Indian studies with a minor in health psychology. Mercedes participated in the American Indian Cultural House living-learning community, and became an executive board member and director for the American Indian Student Cultural Center. Mercedes also works in the Shakopee School District as the American Indian Education Specialist and serves on the education committee in her community. In 2020, Mercedes founded Chi Maingan’s 7th Generation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide culturally based equine support services to Native youth across the nation. She believes that reconciling the relationship between Native people and the Horse Nation is a positive path towards healing intergenerational trauma. By providing culturally based equine support services in the form of camps and other programs, Native youth are able to build skills and confidence that will help them be successful in the future.
Ella is a senior attending Crookston High School and is an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes. She has served on the Polk County Public Health Youth Advisory Board and the Unity Teen Advisory Board where she has been an advocate for better public health throughout the community. Ella is the founder of her school’s Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA), where she works to foster a better school environment for LGBTQ+ students. Next year, Ella plans to attend college and major in political science or astrophysics. In her free time, she loves to figure skate, do puzzles, and play the double bass.
Ponny is a senior at Minnesota State University Moorhead, double majoring in multimedia journalism and political science with an emphasis in women and gender studies. Ponny is a dedicated reproductive rights activist working with organizations like Advocates for Youth and Planned Parenthood to lobby Congress for legislation in support of young people’s access to affordable reproductive healthcare. As the president of her school’s Black Student Union and Campus Feminist organization, Ponny orchestrated free, inclusive, and comprehensive sexual education courses. She currently organizes a fundraiser which allocates and distributes free emergency contraceptive pills on campus. After her family was personally targeted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Ponny took up work as a co-director at a local nonprofit that serves immigrant families. As an immigrant American, first generation college student, Ponny understands the systemic disadvantages experienced by marginalized, which is why she strives to center Black, queer, bodies of color in her public service work.
Amy is a senior at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities studying political science. As the legislative assistant to State Senator Matt Little, in addition to handling all constituent contact, scheduling, and legislative work, she also grew Senator Little’s TikTok following by producing and editing viral content. This youth engagement work led to major media coverage of Senator Little’s TikTok platform by outlets such as BBC World News and Politico. She’s also worked as a legislative assistant for Lockridge Grindal Nauen and was a part of the Citizens League Capitol Pathways program as an intern for Minnesota Housing in 2019. Additionally, she has worked in different capacities at the City of Minneapolis through the Urban Scholars program. Amy is passionate about making government accessible to communities of color and creating equitable policy. She is currently working as a legislative intern for the Office of Congressman Dean Phillips and hopes to pursue a career as a staffer to an elected official post-graduation.