Podcast: Youth commissioner develops life skills for making change

The Center for Democracy and Citizenship sat down with Alexandra Young, an 18-year-old high school senior at St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists in St. Paul, Minnesota, to discuss her involvement with the City of Saint Paul through its Second Shift Youth Commission.

Young is part of the 18-member Youth Commission that represents each neighborhood in St. Paul. The multi-generational approach to civic engagement provides leadership opportunities for youth, such as Young, who want to make a change in their community.

We invite you to hear how participation on the Youth Commission has changed Young's views on local and national elections and civic participation:

Listen here.

Young serves on the Youth Commission's "Youth and Friendly Spaces Subcommittee," which is working to create a community teen recreation center that offers age-appropriate teen activities – like graffiti art and video game competitions – at a location accessible by public transportation.

Young said that before she was a youth commissioner, she wouldn't have known how to present a proposal to decision-makers. Now she said she has the skills to present professional, compelling arguments to both the mayor and city council.

The Youth Commission is being heard and truly changing the dialogue at City Hall, she said.

"I think to a certain extent, yeah, we do have our limits – but, then again, no we don't," Young said. "Because we are the next senators and presidents. Eventually, you got to listen because we will be taking care of [people like the mayor]."

As for today, Young believes the Youth Commission stands for the issues that adults want in St. Paul.

"We stand for the things that Mayor Coleman stands for," Young said. "I personally stand for good culture and good community... And, we all want to make a difference in the city."

The work of the Youth Commission is supported through a grant from the Surdna Foundation.


Great podcasts! I have noted them in a post at Click my name.

Also, we'd like to invite people who are involved in youth civic engagement projects to take part in a live blog "water cooler" this Thursday, November 15, at We'll be talking about what it takes to organize youth for engagement, issues that have motivated youth to get involved, and how to move from talk to action. If you'd like to take part, all you need to do is show up at DemSpace at 2 p.m. Central.

(DemocracySpace is a project of the Study Circles Resource Center, soon to be renamed Everyday Democracy.)

Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs