St. Paul initiative puts youth on city boards, commissions

portrait of a man outside
Abdulrahman Mohamed, 17, was appointed to the St. Paul Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity Commission as part of the city’s Youth on Boards initiative.
Courtesy of Sprockets

Across the state, newly elected civic leaders are settling into their roles after this month's election. And so are 10 young people appointed to St. Paul boards and commissions under a new program called Youth on Boards.

Open to youth ages 14 to 21, the initiative is a collaboration between St. Paul Parks and Recreation and the St. Paul Public Library system. It’s designed to let youth be heard and learn how local government works. They’ll weigh in on transportation, capital improvement, economic development and more.

Abdulrahman Mohamed, 17, was appointed to the Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity Commission. He joined MPR News host Tom Crann to talk about the opportunity.

Their conversation is transcribed below. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

What are you passionate about that got you involved in this?

The thing that got me passionate is helping my community. I help out people in my mosque or help people with after-school tutoring. I want to be able to help as many people as I can, and working on a government level can give me that platform to help as many people as I can.

What do you hope to achieve through this experience on the Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity Commission?

I want to tackle any discriminatory practices that are standing in the way of my fellow community members. Examples are ageism, sexism, racism, ableism and many more obstacles that are still happening nowadays in the workforce. I also hope to engage with a lot of my community members and learn more about them and try to dismantle some of the malpractices that we have in St. Paul,

What have you learned so far about how this commission works?

I still haven't been to the first meeting, because it's going to be Tuesday. But I know they gather information on cases, they discuss it and they make a verdict at the end. I’m not entirely sure — that's why I'm there to learn.

Why do you think elected officials should listen to young people who can't yet vote?

Well, I guess I can speak to my experience. So I can’t vote right now since I am 17. But I shouldn't be discredited just because I'm young, because next year when I turn 18 in May, I will be able to vote. And having an elected politician who discredited young people — they won't get my vote when I turn 18.

What do you, as someone who is not yet 18, bring to this conversation that you think might be missing?

As a young person, I still have time to be open-minded and learn more about different scenarios. And frankly, the thing about us young people is that we're not asking to be heard; we're demanding things to change. And while we can’t vote for now, we have a lot of other things we could do in the meantime, like starting petitions, organizing protests and using social media to inform those who can vote.

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