Youth Leaders in Saint Paul: Sprockets Community Engagement Team

Over the summer, Sprockets was able to host 10 Right Track youth to carry out the Listen Up Saint Paul! Youth survey. Thanks to Right Track, 3 of those youth will be working with Sprockets throughout the school year. Mailee [center], Sabrina[right], and Pagey[left] are hard at work analyzing the data collected from the Listen Up Saint Paul project and organizing an upcoming youth-led event around SPPS School Board elections. As they continue engaging youth and exploring other opportunities to advocate for youth and out-of-school time in Saint Paul, they each took time to share their thoughts on their work and what it means to be a leader.

1. What does being a leader mean to you? What does leadership mean to you?

Mailee: I feel like anyone can be a leader. You have to take initiative and sometimes you have to take risks. To people who are thinking about being leaders, speak out and let your voice be heard. You never know what can happen. You can make a change in the communities you love.

Sabrina: Leadership means being unique in your own way. Being creative and thinking differently about things. Even volunteering and helping others can be leadership. Have a positive attitude. Be committed. That’s what a leader is for me.

Pagey: A leader is someone who takes risks and deals with challenges. But it can also be someone who isn’t always trying to be the leader. If you are always trying to be a leader, you might forget about others because you are just doing things by yourself. Take a step back and try to engage everyone.

2. How do you hope to impact your community in this role with Sprockets or any other roles you step into?

Mailee: I want to make people come out and say what they want to say. For them to use their voice. At one of our planning meetings for the SPPS school board event, I saw a lot of youth talk about what they think and what they want to see. To me that was very powerful, to see other youth want to do that too, use their voice. And personally, I haven’t seen any youth in this type of role [at Sprockets] or doing this type of work, and it’s a very unique role. I’m doing something that I want to see but never do. 

Sabrina: With what we are doing right now, around the school board elections, some people still don’t know about SPPS school board and what they do. So its good that there are some of us who are actually going around and talking about it because youth and families should know what’s happening at their schools and in their city. 

Pagey: I want my community to know what’s happening. For us teenagers, we are sometimes stuck in our own world and think everything is okay. After joining Sprockets, I opened up my world a little bit and realized more of what’s happening. But then adults, sometimes they are just assuming. When I tell some adults what I’m doing, they’re like “Oh I can’t see you students doing that” or “I can’t see you doing that because teenagers nowadays don’t do anything.” I feel like just because we are young, you shouldn’t assume. Teenagers should open up their minds a little bit and adults should too. 

3. What advice do you have for people trying to be or continue being leaders?

Mailee: I think oftentimes youth are scared and nervous to see what’s going to happen next. For me personally, I was very scared and shy to speak out. And I also didn’t know what to do if I wanted my voice to be heard, so I ended up not doing anything because of that doubt. But you have to take that initiative, even when you are scared and nervous. Everyone can do it, you just have to have the courage and take the risk. 

Sabrina: Find something you are interested in, don’t just do something because you want to be a leader. Do something that interests you, and get support from people you are familiar with. Trying something new doesn’t mean you are gonna fail. Sometimes it can be a good thing. 

Pagey: If you want to be a leader, the best way is to connect with people. Connecting with people is helpful. And I don’t think its hard being a leader. I think sometimes it’s hard when you think too much about it. Just let it be and go do it.