On a gorgeous May afternoon, a group of youth are gathered around picnic tables at Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis. At first glance, it looks like a typical start to a Youth Outdoors activity, with youth in matching Conservation Corps shirts getting their daily instructions from the young adult leaders interspersed among the students. But once you get within earshot, you can hear an important civics lesson going down.
Representative Keith Ellison is visiting on this particular afternoon and sharing his story with the eager listeners, walking them through the path he took from his childhood in Detroit to his current role as the U.S. Representative for Minnesota’s 5th congressional district. He tells them how important it is to bring the environment and jobs together, like Conservation Corps is doing, and that they are all heroes for doing such great work throughout the city’s parks. But most importantly, Rep. Ellison is encouraging these Youth Outdoors members to be active and engaged citizens by voting, speaking up for what they believe, and even running for office!
“My favorite part of the conversation was when [he] told us to run for mayor or a political position, because then we can make the choices we think will be good for our lives,” shares Shanice, a Youth Outdoors member. Rep. Ellison’s brief visit is a nice break before the group departs to pull garlic mustard throughout the park, but the lessons he shares will no doubt stick with these youth for years to come.