Building the Next Generation of Leaders

Sometimes it’s the simplest events that can unite a community. 

A few weeks ago I took part in a community soccer match with members of the Sioux Falls Police Department and residents from our Kunama and Somali communities in Sioux Falls. The goal was to continue to find ways for the Police Department to reach out in positive ways to the communities we serve.

On the surface, it was a fun and energetic soccer match, but the relationship building that occurred before, during, and after the game will reap rewards long after. It was “One Sioux Falls” in action, building relationships with the youth in our city and breaking down barriers between community leaders and our young people.

As Sioux Falls grows and becomes more diverse, we need to continue to find opportunities for unity-building events like this one. We also need to continue to invite our youth to be part of events like this and for them to provide insight on community-wide decisions.

As we plan for Sioux Falls’ future, youth engagement is an essential component. The simple fact is, the Sioux Falls of our future will be led by today’s young people. They will be our workforce and community leaders, and we need to include them on the decisions we are making today that will impact the state of our community and their future.

Historically, our youth have not had a seat at the table in City government. That’s why my administration and our City team are devoting renewed energy to youth-based initiatives aimed at engaging our city’s teens. These plans include founding the Mayor’s Youth Council and continuing the Sioux 52 Mentoring Initiative to connect our community’s youth to caring mentors.

Mayor’s Youth Council

The Mayor’s Youth Council provides an opportunity for a group of engaged student leaders to not only learn about City government but also have a voice at the local level. This newly formed group is designed to create opportunities and provide resources for young people to make an even greater impact across Sioux Falls.

In the dozens of applications for the Council, it is abundantly clear that the young people of Sioux Falls are passionate about their community. They are passionate about making a lasting impact in Sioux Falls. They see a need for change, and they are looking for even more opportunities to make a difference. And that’s truly inspiring.

Out of those applicants, we selected 13 students from across Sioux Falls to be part of the 2021-2022 Mayor’s Youth Council. View this article to see the students selected for the inaugural class.

These students are engaged in the community and concerned about topics like promoting sustainability on a small and large scale across Sioux Falls. They are thinking about pressing issues that affect their classmates and friends, including homelessness, substance abuse, mental health, and gang violence. They are passionate about finding opportunities to lead, stay informed about current issues in Sioux Falls, and make a positive difference in the community.

Just read this note from one Council member:

“Young adults should be getting more education surrounding real-life matters because awareness and action now will be beneficial later. Before we know it, we will be the future—the ones making the big decisions and taking part in discussions that not only affect our friends and family but our community as a whole.” (Chloe Houwman)

And these young people have dreams and goals for our city to build upon the type of unity-building work that took place at the community soccer match I mentioned earlier. They see the need and opportunity to unite students across Sioux Falls by learning from each other and about the diverse fabric and cultures of our community.

This student shared his aspirations about developing a community of youth that lifts each other up:

“The biggest issue that our youth are facing is a lack of interaction. . . . Every person desires a place to belong. People will go to great lengths to find that belonging. Right now the youth are finding belonging in places that are harmful to them. By providing the right community of belonging and positive, healthy relationships, the youth could be exponentially influenced for good.” (Daniel Colby)

The Mayor’s Youth Council will empower teens to be a positive voice for change in the community. I look forward to seeing the great things that this group of talented and engaged student leaders will achieve for Sioux Falls.

This Council will also play an important role in helping us tackle challenging issues in our community like youth violence. There is further work to be done to prevent youth violence that will require a multifaceted, collaborative approach. As a City team, we are working to better understand youth violence and align our resources to both support teens and prevent violence, such as through efforts like the Sioux 52 Mentoring Initiative.

Sioux 52 Mentoring Initiative

We continue to see interest and momentum in mentoring across Sioux Falls through Sioux 52. Earlier this year at the YPN Summit, we set a goal to recruit 50 new mentors and easily surpassed it. The passion for mentoring is catching on in Sioux Falls, and it stands to have a lasting impact across our community. I encourage you to learn more about Sioux 52 and how you or your business can get involved at sioux52.org.

It will take all of us working together—including partnering with our youth and mentoring and learning from each other—to create an even better Sioux Falls for our next generation.

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