As I entered the Yea!MN room on April 10th, I heard voices welcoming me in despite the fact that I was 10 minutes late. As we began our introductions and game, I reflected on how unique this group environment is. It is full of students from different schools and communities that come into the same space to reflect, work and encourage each other on their own separate school projects.
Nicole Ektnitphong, our lovely coordinator, had us warm up with some silent stretches to center ourselves, relax from the stressful day and mentally prepare for the meeting. I appreciate these parts of meetings, finding that it helps you to become more engaged throughout the time together. Often times in extracurricular groups there is no time taken to slow down, instead you are rushed to finish task after task. This felt like a space where it was okay to be at any speed. With any issue, and especially with climate change, it can often feel like a race against time and that you should always be working to solve the problems at hand. However, as Nicole mentioned at this meeting, it’s important to take time to do things like celebrate our accomplishments, or as we did at this meeting, just slow down and become more grounded in our lives and work.
Up next, we broke into pairs to talk about either a time we were part of a group that made a powerful change, or a time we experienced an event that was powerful. I shared about just last week when my school, South High School in Minneapolis, had a sit-in during 7th hour following the non-indictment of the police officers who shot Jamar Clark. What impressed me about this event was that although it was planned quickly, with the messages about the sit-in starting to be spread in 2nd hour, it worked beautifully. We gathered in the lunchroom, and after a couple small speeches from students the space was opened up for anyone to talk. And people talked. There was sharing of stories, accounts of racism in our communities, and simple statements of feelings. Despite the sit-it being speedily organized, it fulfilled its mission of providing a safe space organized by students for all students to share.
After the pair-share, we discussed ways to make an event that you plan powerful and successful. As the group began to form a list filled with ideas, such as making sure the space is inclusive, creating a simple plan, and promoting it on social media, Nicole pressed us to think harder: “What events have you been to or been part of that had these qualities? Why are these qualities important?”
Lastly, we broke up into our respective school groups and discussed how we could implement some of the powerful qualities we had come up with into projects that we are planning in our school communities. For example, bike to school week(an event we are organizing at South High) could use some social media hype, or building a greenhouse like another school is doing requires lots of logistical planning. We placed our events on the YEA! MN calendars, giant pieces of construction paper labeled April, May, and June, so that we could see all the work others are doing and support each other in any way we can. Then finally, in the true spirit of Yea!MN, we closed with a song.