by Bekah Farrell, interning at Neighborhood House
This week my task supervisor and I took the girls to the Mayoral Candidate Forum that was held in the Wellstone Center. While we only had five girls instead of the usual twelve, the girls who did come met and surpassed my expectations. The format of this forum was round table discussions. There were ten candidates and ten tables. Each table represented a different hot button issue such as housing, healthcare, or youth workers/youth engagement. Each candidate got nine minutes at each table and there were two mandated questions for each table and if time, more questions could be asked after that. We had the five girls from group sit at the youth table surrounded by other youth workers and a couple past participants of the GRIP program. The two mandated questions at the youth table were about SROs in schools and how to give youth a seat at the table and involved in discussions.
My task supervisor and I were all a bit nervous about how the girls were going to handle this forum. All five girls who attended are between twelve and thirteen years old. Most kids that age do not care at all about politics, I know I sure didn’t. But the girls were amazing. They were engaged, they asked questions, they had real life examples, they were not afraid to speak up, and they refused to let the candidates get away with not answering their questions directly. As I sat in the back of the table, listening to the candidates and watching the girls, I couldn’t help but be in awe. These young girls were taking charge of their lives and their experiences and using their voice to effect change. They were poised, they were attentive, and they were passionate. They knew that, even though they were not of legal voting age, decisions that were going to be made by the next mayor of St. Paul were going to affect them and they weren’t going to just stand by and let things happen. They have a voice, they are going to use that voice, and they are going to make sure that voice is heard.