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Area youths working for change in schools and communities

WORTHINGTON -- Within the halls of Worthington High School walk several students who are determined to create a change within their school and community.

Youth Making Change (YMC) is a student-led organization that corresponds with the Nobles County Integration Collaborative (NCIC) and focuses on youths making changes in their world.

"We're trying to make schools more welcoming for others and newcomers and trying to spread throughout the community," said Desalegn Zemenfes, a member of YMC.

The YMC mission statement says they are a group of motivated teenagers striving to make change in the community. They want to create a safe, nonjudgmental environment for youths by promoting inclusiveness and want to make a positive change in the community.

The group came about a few months ago due to Project Footsteps, an organization based in Minneapolis that tries to prepare young people to be agents of change and social leaders in action.

"They had us write down a list that filled up an entire board of things that we thought were wrong," said Dayana Martinez.

"With the school and community in general," finished Valeria Cano, another member of YMC.

They meet three times a week: Monday nights, Wednesday mornings before school and Friday mornings during homeroom at the high school. All members are required to come to one meeting a week. Every month, people from Project Footsteps come to a meeting.

"They have us work on building leadership skill and getting aware of problems," said Martinez.

Some of the current goals of the group include creating a better relationship between the staff and student body at the high school and making Worthington more welcoming.

"In my personal experience, Worthington is always looked down at," said Cano. "I don't really hear the positive things, like how we have a really good choir, or a really good basketball team."

The group wants to change those perceptions and emphasize the positive things the community has to offer.

They also want to address the issue with cliques in the school.

"The cliques are overpowering. If you just sit back one day during lunch, you'll see it," said Cano.

The members have planned events to help address and minimize these issues.

"We have Mix-it-up day at the high school," said Elizabeth Sterling, the adult leader of YMC. "The kids are assigned tables to sit with new people at lunch. It's a way to make the schools more inclusive."

Another event includes an open mic night.

"It's a way for kids to showcase their talents," said Sterling. "The main focus is for the youths to be involved."

"We're starting with the youths, but we hope to spread to the community," said Cano.

Other possible events include a diabetes walk in the spring to raise money and awareness and a Peace Jam in the summer, which would be similar to open mic night but open to the community as well.

The group is trying to raise awareness about who they are and what they do within the schools and the communities.

"If more people get involved and participated, not only would it be a fun experience, but they'd also see changes faster than they would by just watching it," said Cano.

They're also trying to get support from businesses. Wal-Mart, Pizza Ranch, Ben Lee's, and Panda House have all donated food for their meetings.

"Ben Lee's has also offered their space for open mic night," said Sterling.

Businesses are welcome to come to the meetings, as are students from across the area.

"We're open to all member districts of NCIC, not just Worthington," said Sterling.

To get involved, youths simply need to show up to a meeting.

"I keep a list of who's involved so I can keep everyone updated," said Sterling.

"And we always bring treats to the meetings," added Martinez.

Daily Globe Reporter Brianna

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