Carlson Family Foundation holds first Uplifting Youth Convening

The Carlson Family Foundation recently held its first ever Uplifting Youth Convening, bringing together grantee partners from Constellation, Sex Trafficking Prevention, and Vibrant Communities priorities to discuss the importance of uplifting young people’s voices and making those voices central to their work.

As noted by Foundation Board Chair Wendy Nelson, the event was another step in the Foundation’s journey to rethink how it works with grantee partners, with a focus on listening and learning from each other to uplift youth.

“We came to all of you, our grantee partners. And you accepted the call to teach us and generously bring us along, enabling our growth in partnership,” Wendy shared, noting that the convening itself was designed with grantee input at the center.

Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter provided the keynote address, where he highlighted the importance of engaging everyone in decision-making and problem solving, especially young people. “With equity comes decision-making power,” he said. He added that young people are speaking all the time about what they need, want and what works for them — it’s a matter of listening to them when, and where, they talk.

Cole Stevens, Bridgemakers co-founder and vice president of programs, led a Q&A with Mayor Carter, going deeper into how the mayor approaches listening and investing in young people in a way that leads to policy innovation.

Throughout the convening, young people played a central role in panel discussions, breakout sessions and performances.

After lunch, attendees were treated to a performance by the Ikidowin Acting Ensemble. This youth program from the Indigenous Peoples Task Force works to strengthen community wellness with indigenous values and ways of knowing. The youth ensemble gave a live performance called “Beishigo Asemma” about the history of tobacco, the first medicine of the Ojibwe people.

To close the day, Marcus Pope, president of Youthprise, led a panel comprised of young entrepreneurs, and community and political organizers to discuss relationships that helped them on their path, the challenges of being seen and heard by adults, and the importance of mutual respect. One panelist talked about understanding that it’s OK if young people make mistakes. “We’re new and young, and trying to get support. We’ll make mistakes, but we still need your respect,” they shared.

Alexander Muresanu, incoming Carlson Family Foundation Board Chair, closed the event by reaffirming the Foundation’s commitment to continuing to work together with grantee partners to listen, learn and grow to ensure all youth have the opportunity to realize their dreams.

We are so grateful to our attendees who took time out of their day to be with us and gave us feedback on this inaugural event so the next convening can be even more tailored to the needs of our grantee partners.

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