WORTHINGTON — A Worthington High School junior is among 23 individuals appointed to the Young Women’s Cabinet, an initiative between the governor’s office and the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota established in 2016 to improve outcomes for young Minnesota women.
Nayzeth Muniz is the only woman from southwest Minnesota appointed to the cabinet. Her term begins Saturday, when the group gathers for its first session at the Minnesota Capitol. Each term can last for up to three years.
“I am encouraged by the overwhelming response we received to our call for young women to apply to the Young Women’s Cabinet,” said Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan in a press release issued earlier this week. “This initiative is a demonstration of our commitment to not only giving young women a seat at the table, but centering them in our decisions to improve the lives of all Minnesotans. Thank you to the over 140 young women who applied and shared their powerful voices, ideas and stories with us. We are so grateful.”
“Every young woman in Minnesota deserves a bright future, and the best way we can achieve that is by asking them directly what we can do to improve opportunity in their community,” added Gov. Tim Walz.
“I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be selected,” said Muniz, who's enrolled in the Post-Secondary Education Option (PSEO) program and takes classes both at WHS and Minnesota West Community and Technical College.
With a grade point average of 3.9 and a class ranking of eighth among 208 students in the junior class, Muniz said she was intrigued by the purpose of the cabinet.
In her application, she said she believes the issues young women face in her community are often overlooked or not taken seriously.
“I hope that being involved in this program could benefit both me and the community to get stuff done,” she said.
Muniz’ involvement in community activism was triggered in September, when a Washington Post article shone a spotlight on immigration and attitudes among certain Worthington residents. She joined Unidos Minnesota and has since participated in two major events. The first was a peaceful protest outside Independent School District 518’s administration building to condemn what students perceived as silence from the district on issues including the continued employment of school bus driver Don Brink, who was featured in the Post article. The second was a get-out-the-vote campaign encouraging Worthington residents to support the Nov. 5 election on the school bond referendum.
“I enjoy it,” she said of the changes the group has tried to bring about in the community.
“I want to get things done — not just say things, but get things done,” Muniz said. “I thought this young women's cabinet would help me do that.”
She said young women of color face numerous challenges, from racism to inequality and bullying, and she’d like to see that change.
Muniz said more young women need to take a stand, and she’s hoping her experience on the cabinet will help expand her leadership skills and forge relationships with other young women across the state.
As for her own life, Muniz is being raised by a single mom and, while they face financial struggles, she said their home is filled with happiness and love.
“It’s me, my mom and my sister,” she said. Her mom, Maria, is employed by Johnson Builders and Realty and is working toward her real estate license. Her sister, Jessenia, is 11 months younger. “They’re just the best family ever.”
Born in St. Paul and moving to Worthington with her family when she was just a toddler, Muniz said she looks forward to visiting the Capitol on Saturday — it isn’t too far from the neighborhood where she was born.
Saturday’s cabinet gathering will include a roundtable discussion led by Lt. Gov. Flanagan on which Worthington native Andrea Duarte is participating. Muniz will also attend a networking lunch with governor’s office staff, tour the Capitol and attend meetings to learn more about the roles and responsibilities of those serving on the cabinet.
At this point, she knows she will be expected to dedicate a minimum of 10 hours per month to her cabinet post.
While serving on the cabinet, Muniz will continue to push forward with her personal goals. She wants to graduate from high school at the same time she graduates with an associate’s degree from Minnesota West. Among her ideas for a future career, she is considering work in dermatology, although her recent community activism has her eyeing something political.
In high school, Muniz is involved in Upward Bound, a program to help first-generation college students navigate the process of financial aid, coursework and choosing a major. In addition, she serves on the WHS student council that coordinates volunteer activities, such as organizing the current Toys for Tykes campaign. She also is a member of Dynamic 517, a youth group of the Nobles County Integration Collaborative.