Student leaders from Wilder’s Youth Leadership Initiative told members of a Minnesota legislative committee about the value of after-school programs. Toung Yang and Padah Vang urged the House Education Innovative Policy Committee to support a bill that would establish a competitive grant program for after-school programs across Minnesota.
Yang, a senior at Highland Park High School, has been involved in YLI for three years. She designs lesson plans that help youth reflect on who they are and participate in teambuilding and service projects.
Yang told committee members YLI made her see the world differently. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you fail or succeed,” she said. “It is about trying. I learned that my voice matters.”
Vang, a senior at Central High School, said she was labeled as a quiet girl, but YLI helped her cultivate her voice. "I stepped out of my comfort zone because people pushed me, and I began to push myself too," she said.
You can listen to the testimony here. Discussion of the bill begins at approximately 55:00. YLI student testimony starts at approximately 1:04:00.
YLI is a multicultural program that helps youth learn skills, engage in community action and develop themselves as leaders. Sixty students participate in the program.
Photo: Toung Yang testifying.