Adonai Yidnekachew

Even though Adonai Yidnekachew’s favorite subject in school is math, she loves public speaking and writing speeches — which is evidenced by her involvement on her school’s speech team.

Chaska High School sophomore Adonai Yidnekachew has been selected to be a part of the 2022-2023 Minnesota Youth Council (MYC) as one of four students representing Congressional District 3.

MYC is a collaborative space for young people to engage with four priority issue areas at a legislative level: juvenile justice, education equity, environmental justice and health and wellness. Yidnekachew’s interests are with education equity in particular.

“That’s something I’m really passionate about — focusing on the achievement gap and making sure that everyone is able to get the resources they need for education,” Yidnekachew said. “I feel like it’s something that isn’t really noticed and it’s really hidden in the education system. Each individual is dealing with different things like their socioeconomic status or what’s going on at home or even their background; those are things that can stop them from getting the resources they need in their education.”

The Minnesota Legislature formally recognized the work of MYC in 2013, passing the Minnesota Youth Council Committee Bill. With this, MYC became an official legislative committee and established a system for young people to provide insight and recommendations to the Legislature and the governor through formal committee meetings and feedback letters to bill authors.

The MYC meets twice a month — one meeting is to connect with fellow district members and the other is with the specialized committee.

“Politics is probably not my main thing, but I do believe that it’s important to learn about the political systems in Minnesota because that’s what’s going to directly cause change,” Yidnekachew said. “If we want to cause direct change, we have to be able to work on those policies, work on those bills and laws.”

After high school, Yidnekachew intends to go to college and imagines herself becoming a businesswoman.

“That’s something that can really branch out into different things and working with different types of people,” Yidnekachew said. “I see myself being a part of my community and making sure that I’m also helping those in my community as well — volunteering, advocating for social justice in my community, maybe even working with elementary schools.”

To keep working toward her career goals, Yidnekachew is a part of quite a few extracurricular activities such as speech, track, cross country, volunteering with the Key Club and being a part of Student Organization Against Racism (SOAR), a group she founded her freshmen year.

“We focus on eliminating racism and educating people about racism in our schools,” Yidnekachew said. “Especially in Chaska High School, because the high school did have a lot of racist incidents, so we’re focusing on teaching people about racism in a fun way.”

According to Yidnekachew, SOAR creates educational content on various social media platforms such as TikTok and YouTube to make “learning about each other’s differences and celebrating our differences more fun and easier for teenagers to understand.”

“We’ve been specifically talking about the curriculum, too, because, you know, with the history curriculum there’s a lot of things that are being hidden from us,” Yidnekachew said. “I really want to work on this because that has to do with the district and the school board and that’s something that they have a responsibility to oversee. It’s something really important that a lot of students are complaining about.”

Yidnekachew also pulls inspiration for the work she wants to do with MYC from the SOAR meetings.

“Hearing their perspectives, like, my mouth is dropped. I’m speechless. Everyone has so many different perspectives that I have never heard about in my life,” Yidnekachew said. “I know a lot of people who want to create that change but don’t where to start, but being on this platform to help those who want their voices heard is important.”

The program runs from now until June and current members can reapply for another year on the council — and Yidnekachew definitely thinks she will.

“I think I’m a good youth representative at MYC because I’m someone who really likes to speak out and I don’t like to be silent about different issues,” Yidnekachew said. “And not only my issues or my perspectives, struggles or experiences, but also working for those peers in my community whose voices aren’t being heard.”