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Youth Agency


Youth Agency

Youth are active agents in shaping their futures.

Youth are active agents in shaping their futures through youth-adult partnerships that recognize and value youth ownership and leadership within their communities, which contributes to their positive and healthy development. Youth agency recognizes that youth contribute in the ways they are best able and that adults working in partnership with youth must make youth engagement accessible both physically and mentally.Youth must have a tangible ownership of physical spaces, welcoming environments, parks, organizations, and business opportunities. Youth must also either be at the table or, more preferably, leading the charge on policy making, civic engagement, and allocation of funds and resources.

Youth Voice: Power of Knowledge

By Chelsea Chingwe, Minneapolis Youth Congress Contributor

This topic is generally about how ageism affects youth. Youth feel they don’t have a say in what happens in the city even though it affects their own lives. This makes youth feel like their voices don't matter. Youth also talked about how ageism affects their interaction with police.
The ward meeting attendees talked about how they feel it is important that they work with adults together to make the city a better place for everyone. Youth need more platforms to speak up and protest about things they believe in. They talked about how they wish they had opportunities to talk to people in power. They wish they had platforms to share their perspectives and concerns directly instead of other parties doing it for them. The ward meeting attendees also added that working with politicians and people in power will make them feel more involved in City developments. They also felt that learning about Minneapolis’s native history would make people have a sense of community, know the people around them, and develop empathy for each other. 
Youth attendees feel that educational empathy is needed because teachers need to be more understanding when it comes to how much they expect students to do in a certain period of time. The youth, who were mostly high school students, felt like teachers need to take into consideration that students have other things on their plates that include sports, clubs, jobs, etc. The attendees also talked about how bullying should be addressed at schools. A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2018b) shows that youth that are bullied have an increased risk of depression, anxiety, insomnia and lower academic performance. The majority of people who talked about this topic reside or work in Southwest Minneapolis (Ward 13), are female, and are currently enrolled at a high school. 
Another issue that was brought up at the ward meetings was the use of force with Metro Transit police. The attendees feel that the Transit police tend to unnecessarily escalate situations when there is a youth involved. They don’t take time to listen to both sides of the story. Youth who had more experience and more to talk about this topic were youth of color and resided or worked in wards 3 and 13. Their experiences with police make them feel unsafe because they feel targeted. Youth also think that police should be trained to handle everyone regardless of their age, sexual orientation, racial or traditional background without discrimination.
As a ward meeting facilitator, one thing I identified is that youth feel like they are in a battle against adults who misuse their power and who think that youth are useless and up to no good. I strongly believe that it would be beneficial for people in power, including police, to make an effort to better their relationship with youth as it will improve how they are perceived by young people and they will have more perspectives and diversity when they make decisions for Minneapolis.


Adults are a challenge to youth ownership of space and their futures because they currently hold the keys to ownership and leadership and are often unwilling to share this power with young people. The lack of trust towards youth among adults instills a sense of paternalism in adults that drives their reluctance to share ownership over space and decision making.
Youth cannot own their spaces or futures when they are left out from society. Economic resources, social capital, and power are all held from youth, which disempowers youth and keeps them from owning their spaces and futures.

Learn more about the Youth Agency priority starting on page 19 of the downloadable report


Youth are both intelligent and blunt when it comes to owning physical space and decisions. Youth bring in rich and diverse experiential knowledge that enriches physical space and decision making, and are unafraid to talk about their experiences matter-of-factly and advocate for necessary change. When given the opportunity to own their spaces and futures, youth may draw upon their own experiential knowledge to enrich their futures and their presents by renewing conversations with adults and talking about their futures bluntly.

Youth have passion and energy that drives them to both push and embrace change as owners and leaders. Youth are driven by their visions for the future and forcefully tackle initiatives that drive positive change in their communities. Youth are not simply the owners and leaders of the future; they hold the passion, energy, and dynamism to be owners and leaders of today.