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Here’s how to make Minnesota a better place

How would young people make Minnesota a better place to live?

That’s the question a group called Students Speak Out put to members of Generation Y — also known as the Google Generation or iGeneration — as part of a video-blogging contest to celebrate Minnesota’s 150 years of statehood.

Immigration, violence in schools and global warming are among the issues addressed by metro high school students in the inaugural competition called “I am Minnesota’s Future.”

“This contest gives an excellent opportunity for our young leaders to have a say in the public policy making process,” said Scott Croonquist, executive director of the Association of Metropolitan School Districts, who judged the contest along with eight others active in media and public affairs.

Students Speak Out is a new social-networking Web site launched in Minneapolis and later in Milwaukee by the Citizens League. The organization is trying to involve young people as active citizens by meeting them where they are — on the Web, according to its project director, Stacy Becker.

“Students do the same thing online that many adults do in their meetings around a table,” she said. “We’ve been experimenting with different models for creating an opportunity for their voices. The contest is one.”

Powerful communications tool

Shauneida Tatum, 16, and her after-school group Polar Producers at North High School in Minneapolis chose to address violence in the “vlog” she submitted, which was judged the winning entry among group submissions. There were nine entries.

Here’s the winning video for group submissions:

“I hope it’s shown to people who will think twice about taking stuff that we need away from us. I want them to support the programs in my video and help whomever else trying to get a youth program started,” Tatum said.

One of the contest judges, Bill Hanley, executive vice president of Twin Cities Public Television, said video produced by young people is an effective way to get policy makers to listen to youth, who might know more about certain issues, such as school violence or bullying.

“For the more experienced young producers, I hope they will find in the process reinforcement that video is the most powerful communications tool ever invented,” Hanley said. “And young people can learn to use it to improve the society that we all share.”
The finalists’ videos will be broadcasted on YouTube and the Citizens League Facebook Web page, as well as presented at the Citizens League’s annual meeting and at the sesquicentennial tent at the Minnesota State Fair.

Winners receive Best Buy gift certificates and a Sony digital camcorder.

Elizabeth Gorman is a freelance journalist from Minneapolis. She reports on international issues and works at Minneapolis Public Schools as a Spanish bilingual educator.

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