See What One of 2019’s Most Inspiring Teens Is Up to Today.
Ridwan Mohamed (middle right) poses with mentors on the day she was sworn into office.
Ridwan (center, right) on the day she was sworn into office.
In 2019, CityPages named her one of the Twin Cities’ 9 Most Inspiring Teens.
One year later, the former Patrick Henry HS debater is putting her argumentation skills in action to benefit her community.
In the time since City Pages named Ridwan Mohamed one of the Twin Cities “9 Most Inspiring Teens,” she’s been hard at work: graduating from Patrick Henry High School, becoming an intern at Genesys Works Twin Cities, entering Hamline University, and serving on the Minneapolis Youth Congress.
“My responsibility with the Minneapolis Youth Congress is really to utilize my voice to the best of my abilities. Our sole job is to make this city we live in a better place,” Ridwan tells us. The organization, which hosts 40-50 representative students in Minneapolis, has the power to collaborate with elected officials in Minneapolis, including the City of Minneapolis, Minneapolis Public Schools, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, Hennepin County, Hennepin County Library, and the Minneapolis Youth Coordinating Board.
“Our motto is ‘no decision about us without us’ because we believe that we deserve to have a say in anything that pertains to youth. That means a lot to us, considering how elders normally misjudge youth because they believe that young folks don’t have what it takes or they don’t know better,” Ridwan tells us.
Members of the MYC had the opportunity to choose from seven committees. Ridwan spent her service as a member of the employment committee, and it was her first choice. “I know how hard it was for me to find a job at 16. I believe in giving resources to people my age,” says Ridwan. “When I was doing my internship downtown, I learned that a lot of youth hung around in the area and didn’t have much to do because they didn’t know where to start. It came to the point where officials were asking for them to be removed. It drove me to want to make a difference for them, especially because the majority of the youth downtown were POC.”
Ridwan’s solution favored reaching out over removal. Ridwan and the other members of the employment committee organized a Saturday job fair for youth, offered resume help, and did mock interviews. The program helped connect Minneapolis students with skill-building work for the past two years. It was youth leadership in a nutshell: Ridwan saw challenges facing her peers, constructed a positive plan to create opportunity, and saw it through. “My goal was to make a change around the city and I can definitely say I have achieved that goal,” Ridwan concludes.
Besides the Saturday job fair, Ridwan has also assisted with state cleanliness initiatives, COVID-19 awareness projects, and participatory budgeting. Her advice for becoming an effective changemaker? Turn inward. Before she began working for change in Minneapolis, she was intentional and introspective about seeking change within. “I wanted to start internally first. I did this by challenging myself and putting myself in situations where I doubted my potential, and when I finally overcame that it helped me a lot. This helped me be fierce and powerful,” says Ridwan.
For Ridwan, that process began with her time on the debate team at Patrick Henry HS: “From debate, I got to learn so much about things that were happening in the world. It helped me become aware enough to bring it up and relate to current issues around Minneapolis. Debate helped me see my potential. I often told myself: if I can debate about it, I can talk about it.”
What’s next for Ridwan: her first year of undergraduate study at Hamline University. She expects her skills to remain useful in this new setting. “I learned how to facilitate conversations, how to communicate with adults, and how to advocate for change,” Ridwan says. “I learned how to execute plans, write proposals, and how to be comfortable with silence – lots of good skills.”
We wish Ridwan the best of luck in college in beyond, where she’ll no doubt continue to find ways to make our community a more equitable place to live.
Your support enables students to take ownership of their own power, helping them become the leaders we need to solve today and tomorrow’s most pressing issues. Make a one time or monthly gift today: bit.ly/GiveDebate