Jennifer Galván-Bautista, Burnsville
Being a young undocumented Mexicana right now is both empowering and challenging. While I am proud to be a part of a generation fighting for equity and justice, I am concerned about the ongoing threats to my community and future.
I see firsthand how systemic oppression affects the daily lives of those around me, and I’m concerned about the injustices and violence my people face. Even though I have DACA status, I live in constant fear of deportation and separation from my family. The lack of comprehensive immigration reform at the national level, and the continual threat of DACA being revoked, heighten my fear and uncertainty.
I am also aware of the intersectional challenges of being a woman of color in a society that undermines and dismisses our experiences and perspectives. The ongoing fights for equal pay and an end to gender- based violence are just some issues that young women across the country continue to face.
Despite these challenges, I see the resilience and determination of mi comunidad and the growing support from allies. I’m inspired by the actions and activism of my peers at the forefront of these movements. I believe that through collective action and advocacy, my generation can create meaningful and lasting change.
Dana Weinke, Saint Cloud
This year has been draining. There is a disconnect between my values and the country’s values. I am concerned about reproductive rights, book bans, legislation meant to harm LGBTQIA+ people and other marginalized communities, and the prevalence of guns. Despite the work of many inspiring change makers, atrocities continue week after week. To be part of this generation has made me feel anxious, stuck, tired, and scared for the future.
On the other hand, I appreciate my generation’s willingness to speak up to older generations and that we normalize taking care of our mental health. There is great organizing happening on college campuses across the country, and I love that we use social media as a learning tool. Unfortunately, I have noticed an increase in performative activism. Sometimes, folks my age will volunteer once and then not care about the issue the rest of the year. I get frustrated when I see the lack of outrage from cis men in my generation. Some tend to care more about the score of a sports game than people losing their rights. Fighting systems requires the most privileged people to challenge harmful narratives. We can’t just post an Instagram story or go to an event and call it good.
Roda Abdi, Columbia Heights
My students make me feel optimistic about the world. Before I met them, incremental, one-foot-before-the-other change felt like succumbing to the systems and structures that can make us feel hopeless about the world. Watching them grow as students and humans has made teaching post pandemic worth it.
What makes me concerned is also tied closely to the younger generation: climate destruction. Change right now feels too tepid and doesn’t address the deep damage being done to the planet. I am endlessly inspired by youth climate activism around the world. After all, it is the planet that young people will inherit.
Quita Leach, Northfield
What does it feel like as a Black woman to be part of this generation?
So much of what I’m about to say is so real, and I’m not too sure many of you will really get how I feel. I’m afraid for the future as I continue to see generational trauma; systematic failures; lack of freedom, rights, and equality. As a Black woman, hearing what younger generations are being taught in school frightens me.
I cannot make any white person ever understand how I feel when an innocent Black person is killed, and a white person says it’s “just another Black person” as if we don’t matter. When I was illegally fired for the color of my skin, I can’t make any white person understand how traumatic that was for me or how I am traumatized working for white-based employers. But regardless of all the failures in this world, I remember one thing: we as individuals have the decision to make the world better.
I was born a leader. I was born with a voice. I was born to speak for those who can’t, and those who are afraid. To speak the truth takes less effort than lying. When you lie, you have to remember what you said. Stand up and do the right thing.
Binta Kanteh, Woodbury
At this time in history, I don’t think the number of things that are breaking, being built, and staying the same is that different than at any other point in history. Many things are true at once: certain populations continue to be under attack by narratives that inform social structures and political governance, and yet some communities that have
historically been isolated are getting some space in various spheres of power — still too small. The tension that comes as a result of simultaneous substantial progress, and regression of policies and how we interact with each other, is not unique to my generation. We aren’t special, and we are. And that, in a strange way, makes me optimistic.
What weighs on my heart are the things that feel and seem unsustainable: what we earn versus cost of living; what we consume versus gross inequities in how we manage waste; the pressures to make it all work versus the serious lack of easily accessible mental healing and support.
It is a tremendous time to be alive, but I am so proud to be a part of a generation whose creativity, boldness, and curiosity will, I hope, add to a tomorrow that is brighter because we are here today.
Grace Halvorson, Moorhead
Growing up in this generation, my peers and I have deep awareness of responsibility; we feel immense pressure to fix the world that previous generations have destroyed. “It’s your job to right our wrongs,” our teachers, grandparents, and politicians say. After being raised in post-9/11 America, through a recession, a pandemic, and seemingly insurmountable political division, those who we looked to as leaders are now telling us that it will be our responsibility to make change. Many of us in this generation are deciding to link arms, put our heads down, and push forward. We are rewriting narratives, refusing to allow harmful systems and power dynamics to continue to hurt our neighbors, and finding time to go on walks, celebrate joy and laughter. Somehow, amidst the devastating headlines and challenges ahead, we are deciding to actively, joyfully, relentlessly hope.
Iman Ibrahim, Eagan
My generation is largely defined by one thing: the internet. We are constantly glued to screens. Although social media can be a problem, it allows me to connect with people I love and support causes that are important to me. I find community through clubs, volunteering, painting, and spending time with my family. I support causes by making petitions and rallying with friends to create change in the world. For most of this, I have used the internet. As someone who is in the generation of “cannot put their phone down,” I decline that stereotype. I am hopeful that my generation can find ways to increase our connectivity.
Amber Lynum, Saint Paul
I’m “hard to talk to.” These are recent words from a friend that still ring in my ear. I applaud him for his honesty because I don’t disagree — it can be difficult to have a conversation with me. Why? Because I’m often seeking a level of depth in dialogue that is unreciprocated by my predominately heterosexual, white, Midwestern family and friends.
We’re all a product of our environment. In Minnesota, that means any topic touching on controversy is avoided at all costs at family and social functions. For what? A superficial “nice” time indistinguishable from any of the other identical get-togethers? Sex, religion, politics, social movements — they’re all off the table once the hotdish is served. The perceived niceness of the culture here inhibits individuals from feeling safe to get into respectful debate with those who might still love them despite their differences.
Sabrina Kubisa, Minnetonka
I often refer to myself as a global citizen because I believe that my identity defies geographic and political borders, and that I am responsible for the global community. I define my generation as global citizens. When I look at my peers, I see young people who are self- aware and make efforts to know and care about what is happening around them. My generation understands that in addition to “being the future,” as young people are often told, they are also responsible for what is happening in the present. I find hope seeing young people included in decision-making processes and using their experiences to advocate for justice and equity worldwide. This is only possible when there is an intergenerational support network around young people. I know that not all young people have the opportunity to express themselves or to be taken seriously. However, I am confident that even when the world continues to evolve and change, my generation will stay grounded in their understanding of themselves and the world around them.
Kailee Schminkey, Elk River
I was a nursing student until I decided to follow in my father’s footsteps and become a commercial painter by trade. I get the opportunity to learn the skills necessary to excel in my career from those who have been doing this for much longer than I have been alive. It is an honor to hear stories from some of my older coworkers, and learn the tips and tricks that they love to teach and pass on to me.
Currently, a concern of mine is making sure my community of painters can share and spread our knowledge and passion with the younger crowd, so that in the future we will have more tradesmen than we currently do.
Being a female in this industry has its challenges — for example, the constant feeling of always having to prove myself and my knowledge. I am overcoming that by giving 110 percent every day. I take much pride in my career and my union. To me, being a part of my generation at this point in history is an extremely exhilarating and joyous experience.
Tomi Omiwade, Woodbury
When we look at the current state of our country, it can be difficult to look to the future with any semblance of hope. At present, we face some of the greatest social and economic issues of our time. In an age where these issues are at the center of every conversation, young people today are forced to acknowledge that the problems we’ve inherited are not some distant burden but a pressing reality. It’s sobering to realize that the future of the nation will one day be in our hands. In truth, the future we face motivates us to be better. Students today have been gifted the unique opportunity of existing at this point in history, where information can be accessed in seconds, where opportunities that our ancestors never had are now available to us. Conversations today are much different than they were 10 or 20 years ago. More accurately, classrooms are different than they were decades ago. The young, creative, and educated minds of today have been armed with the past and charged with the future. We have the power to make change. We are change. Being a member of this generation means having the courage to actively engage in the world around us. It means not forgetting those who came before us and standing up for those who will come after. In Amanda Gorman’s words, “For there is always light, / if only we’re brave enough to see it. / If only we’re brave enough to be it.”