Disrupting with Purpose is a virtual series that brings attention to issues impacting Minnesota’s young people. Each 90-minute installment offers opportunity for young people and adults to engage in dialogue about a range of issues that include, policy, education, health, economic opportunity, and other topics of interest.

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* The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed by speakers, panelists, guests, and other participants are solely their own and do not reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of Youthprise.



Obtaining a driver’s license has long been considered a right of passage and an expression of freedom for young people on the brink of adulthood. But in actuality, it’s much more than that. It’s a bridge to opportunity. Now used as a measure of responsibility, a valid driver’s license is often required for employment, even when driving is not required. Yet, research shows that low-income youth have disparate access to driver’s education, the insured vehicles needed for a driving test, and the monetary funds to maintain a valid license after obtaining one. This gap perpetuates financial obstacles for low-income populations. In particular, Black, Latinx, or Indigenous youth are 1.8 to 2.5 times more likely to be nondrivers than their White peers. Without the initial means to qualify for a driver’s license, their employment options and professional opportunities are scarce– and the cycle repeats.
In Minnesota, driver’s education is no longer free or offered through schools. Now a privatized institution, such instruction can cost up to $600, with additional behind-the-wheel practice fees and vehicle rental fees. Driving tests must also be conducted in privately owned, insured vehicles. Furthermore, in the case one can obtain a license, if they are unable to properly maintain their vehicle or pay the high cost of insurance, their license often gets suspended or revoked. It should also be noted that youth who are in the foster care system are not allowed to have a driver’s license. This plethora of obstacles surrounding driver’s education compounds employment barriers and deepens economic disparity in our communities.
(Driver’s) License to Work seeks to amplify awareness and promote equity surrounding youth’s opportunity to obtain a driver’s license. This intergenerational discussion will focus on licensing policy as an equity issue and the necessity to shift the narrative around getting a driver’s license from an expression of freedom to an access point for opportunity.


Our Disrupting with Purpose event November 16, 2021 focused on Black Excellence in Youth Entrepreneurship. The session was moderated by Lissa Jones-Lofgren and featured Wokie Weah founding President of Youthprise; Thompson Aderinkomi CEO and co-founder of Nice Healthcare; Dario Otero founder of Youth Lens 360; Precious Wallace CEO and founder of King P. Studio; and Bradley Taylor, owner of The Donut Trap. Findings from a 2018 study by Junior Achievement and Ernst & Young LLP indicate that 41% of teenagers are more open to entrepreneurship as a career option than traditional employment. Survey results from the same study revealed that nearly 70% of teens have an idea for a business, but they don’t know how to act on it. Emerging young entrepreneurs often experience a range of challenges that include difficulty being taken seriously, lack of professional connections, and self-doubt.
When these young people are Black, the problems are even greater. A preponderance of research confirms that Black-owned businesses are denied capital at significantly higher rates than their white counterparts. The economic impact of supporting Black youth’s entrepreneurial dreams can be significant. McKinsey & Company asserts that strong black businesses can help close the black-white wealth gap. Further, McKinsey projects that by 2028, an annual cost of $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion will be attributable to this egregious disparity in wealth. With that said, it is essential that we give attention to promoting an ecosystem that eliminates inequities for aspiring young Black entrepreneurs and fosters an environment where they can create, build, and thrive.
Despite facing many obstacles, young Black business owners here in Minnesota are defying the odds and forging their own path to success. Join us for a candid discussion featuring successful Black Minnesota-based entrepreneurs who launched their enterprises during their youth or young adult years. Panelists will address the challenges they endured in starting and sustaining their businesses, and they will offer perspectives on preparing aspiring young Black entrepreneurs to build strong, sustainable establishments. The group will also discuss systemic solutions toward advancing equity in entrepreneurship and the positive impact Black business ownership can have on Black communities and the overall economy.


Lissa Jones-Lofgren facilitated another incredible session on October 19, 2021 featuring a customized artistic expression by Brittany Delaney. Panelists and respondents included: Aretha Green-Rupert, Sam Eberhart, Tony Sanneh, Flor Treviño Frey, Julia Kaemmer, Wendy Lovell-Smith and Andrew Dayton from The Constellation Fund. Financial analysts assert that the next 25 years will bring about the largest inter-generational wealth transfer in history, with Millennials and Generation Xers poised to inherit over $60 trillion in assets from parents and grandparents. So what does all of this mean for the next generation of philanthropy? What approaches can we consider to facilitate more buy-in and investment for this new generation of philanthropist?
We know that younger generations’ interests and giving patterns are much different from their predecessors. Research shows that Millennial and Gen X donors, generally speaking, are more likely to support efforts that impact children and human rights and less likely to support religious institutions when compared to their Baby Boomer and Silent Generation counterparts. Studies also show that earlier generations tend to prioritize causes that meet the basic needs of individuals, whereas younger donors appear to have a greater interest in changing the community and the world.
Generational giving patterns are often shaped by the economic, social, and political context that defines each group, which may contribute to younger generations’ interest in equity and social justice. Further, younger generations place a greater emphasis on experiences, such as volunteerism and advocacy, as an important component of philanthropy. As Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation begin to confer stewardship of their wealth, how do they pass on their commitment to philanthropy to their posterity? And how does the younger generation honor their parents’ legacy while charting a charitable course that is meaningful to them? This installment of the Disrupting with Purpose series brought together a diverse panel of philanthropists to discuss these and other issues.


Our September Disrupting with Purpose event was an opportunity to learn from and explore ways to support a New Generation of Policy Change Makers that are already making a huge difference in our community. It’s been said that no significant change has occurred without the leadership of young people. Recent history bears that out. From black youth conducting sit-ins during the Civil Rights Movement to youth involvement in pressing issues of today – public safety, school curriculum, environmental issues, mental health, and use of sacred land – young people continue to be at the forefront of social change movements that are shifting policy at the state and national level. Recently, youth from Minnesota led a statewide campaign that generated bipartisan support and culminated in legislation to overturn a 90-year old state law that prevented high school students from collecting unemployment benefits. As Minnesota’s population trends younger over the next 25 years, how can we support young people as they seek to effect changes in policy around the issues that impact them? The New Policy Changemakers session will address this issue through a spirited panel discussion that includes youth changemakers and adults who are committed to creating spaces for young people’s involvement in civic discourse and advocacy for social and legislative change.


The first session in our Disrupting with Purpose event series focused on Youth on Governing Boards and Youth Advisory Structures. Learn from the groundbreaking work of Nexus Community Partners as we will have Terri Thao who leads their Boards and Commissions initiative as our moderator for the day. Other panelists include; Neese Parker (Youth Engagement Manager, Youthprise), Rebecca Gilgen (Executive Director, Brooklyn Bridge Alliance for Youth), Luis Salado-Herrera (Board Secretary, Youthprise), and Zachary Pruitt (Executive Director, Healthy Community Initiative) who has led an effort in Northfield, MN that involves over 100 young people in city-level boards and commissions.


Young people of color and Indigenous youth bring unique perspectives when it comes to defining wealth, addressing economic disparities and investing in wealth building opportunities for their communities. They bring critical insights that frame wealth as a collective measure of well-being rather than solely individual, as well as asking important questions regarding wealth and responsibility, power and addressing root causes of poverty and the need for social change. Young Money: Young People’s Perspectives on Building Wealth will engage a panel of youth entrepreneurs in a dialogue focused on what wealth building means to Indigenous youth and young people from communities of color. Panelists will also talk about barriers to building wealth and convey their ideas about how to build a stronger ecosystem that creates opportunities for this population and other marginalized youth to build wealth, including supporting young entrepreneurs. In addition, Waheera Mardah, Senior Consultant for FSG, will present findings from recent focus groups that addressed young people’s ideas about wealth, which, in many cases, may be different from common perspectives. Lissa Jones-Lofgren will facilitate this discussion, which will feature six entrepreneurs, ages 6 to 25, who were recently awarded funding during Youthprise’s most recent Youth Entrepreneurs grant round. Join us for what will prove to be a lively and eye-opening discussion.


When a young person comes of age, their juvenile justice records do not simply disappear. Young people often pay the price for their past infractions well into adulthood. In many cases, a criminal record results in collateral consequences. Past offenses can render individuals ineligible for certain jobs, pose obstacles when they apply for higher education, deter landlords and public authorities from approving their housing, impact their insurance and loan rates, and the list goes on. Many states, including Minnesota, have processes through which people can apply to have their criminal records sealed from the public. In Minnesota, the process is of petitioning the courts to seal a record is called expungement. MN’s current expungement process is imperfect and cumbersome.
Because data show that youth who are black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) are arrested and enter the justice system more frequently than their white peers for the same actions, the issue of expungement is closely tied to equitable treatment. For instance, employers are nearly 50 percent more likely to withhold opportunities based on criminal records, making non-white individuals disproportionately excluded from the workforce. Yet findings show that clearing an individual’s record can increase the probability of finding a job by 6.5 percent and increase wages by 22 percent in the first year following expungement.
While the current handling of criminal records can disrupt a successful transition into adulthood after youth incarceration, there are dedicated advocates – inside the justice system and in the community – who are championing change. In the latest segment of our Disrupting with Purpose learning series, we have invited experts to help us take a closer look at expungement and the necessity of second chances. This event will provide an overview of expungement, including current laws and statistics; feature interviews of young people who have been impacted by expungement; and offer an intergenerational discussion on effective solutions.


In recent years, many states in the U.S. have answered the call to legalize cannabis use for adults, though it has not been legalized at the federal level. Minnesota is also likely to legalize adult-use cannabis via the Omnibus Cannabis Bill (HF-100) making its way through the Minnesota legislature. But as legislators debate the pros and cons of cannabis use and its potential impact, young people have largely been left out of the conversation. We want their voices to be heard on an issue affecting youth across the various dimensions of diversity and geographic differences, not just in urban areas. Their perspectives may differ significantly from traditional attitudes about marijuana, and they must be included in the conversation.
Join us as we engage in a dialogue that elevates youth perspectives on cannabis use and legalization. A panel of young people (ages 16 – 24) will discuss a range of topics, such as their thoughts on marijuana in contrast to other substances like alcohol, methamphetamines, tobacco, and other drugs. Youth panelists will also look at the impact of marijuana across four domains: (1) health, (2) education and out-of-school time activities, (3) legislation and taxation, and (4) employment. As these topics are addressed, practitioners representing each sector will present additional perspectives to consider and engage youth in further dialogue. Specific issues panelists will discuss within these domains include:
• Health, including addiction and health implications of marijuana use;
• Education/Out of School Time Programming as a preventive measure;
• Legislation/Taxation, which will address the content and status of HF 100; and
• Employment, focusing on career opportunities for young people and what training/preparation is necessary to seize the moment, as well as how legalization would impact current practices (e.g., drug tests).
Note: While Youthprise is not taking a position on adult-use cannabis, we believe that if legalized, it should be taxed at a rate comparable to taxes in other states and that a portion of the taxes should be earmarked for youth programming and out-of-school time activities.


According to the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the share of murders committed with a firearm has risen by 27% in Minnesota over the past decade. Further, the Center reports that the state has experienced a 69% spike in guns being used in aggravated assaults since 2015. “Don’t Shoot: Youth Perspectives on Gun Violence, Community Accountability, and Next Steps” will center young people in a dialogue on how gun violence impacts them. Young people from the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota will discuss their thoughts on the impact of gun violence and their perspectives on how to respond effectively. The discussion will focus on three domains: School and community violence, Mass shootings, & Minnesota’s recent gun laws & future legislative opportunities
We will also hear from adults working in the legislature, academia, and social justice who will provide data and context around gun violence nationally and locally. Through these conversations, our aim is to examine the problem of gun violence, prioritizing the viewpoints of young individuals. By doing so, we hope to gain a deeper understanding of this issue and also shed light on Minnesota’s approach to addressing gun violence and related incidents.
We hope by amplifying the voices and experiences of youth and examining Minnesota’s approach to mitigating gun violence, we can work toward fostering a safer and more inclusive community. Our youth panelists ALWAYS provide candid and insightful commentary on the real issues they’re facing, and they’re not shy about advocating for bold, innovative solutions to address them. We’ll be sharing more about this event in the coming weeks.


Cultural Climate Change – Education Edition
Young people’s thoughts on fostering a healthy and equitable school culture
Over the past year and in various settings, Youthprise has repeatedly heard young people of color express a common theme about Minnesota’s education system: It’s broken. Teachers and administrators face the arduous task of navigating a system that, in many ways, is inequitable at its core and promotes disparate outcomes for students who identify as Black, Indigenous, and people of color. When asked about Minnesota’s K-12 public school system, only 15% of Black Minnesotans and 23% of Indigenous Minnesotans believe that their children “just about always” or “most of the time” have the same opportunities as White children in the K-12 public school system (MPR News, 2021). There is a significant amount of data that supports this sentiment of systemic inequity in the state’s education system. A 2022 report by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights indicates that Black and Indigenous students are 8 to 10 times more likely to be suspended or expelled than their white counterparts. In addition, according to Minnesota Compass, on-time graduation rates for youth of color are significantly lower than their white counterparts. Further, research reveals fewer opportunities for dual enrollment at high schools with a higher share of students of color (Grunewald et al., 2016).
How can we shift the cultural climate for Minnesota’s Black, Indigenous, and students of color to one that fosters emotional well-being, equitable opportunities, and academic success? Cultural Climate Change: Education Edition will examine the culture and structure of Minnesota’s public school system through the eyes of students and educators. The multigenerational dialogue will focus on examining school culture. The discussion will cross three domains:
How school culture connects to families and the community;
The quality and essence of interactions among young people and between students and teachers/administrators; and the importance of including young people’s voices in how to improve the current environment.
As with all of our Disrupting with Purpose events, youth will be centered in the discussion, with their voices taking center stage. We will also enlist educators, practitioners, and other professionals specializing in racial equity in education to offer their perspectives. Join us for a timely and vital discussion.


A 2020 study from the Everyone Graduates Center at The Johns Hopkins University School of Education points to the importance of creating a holistic learning environment that encompasses, not only academic learning, but also space for social and emotional development in positioning young people up for life success (Balfanz and Byrnes, 2020). How can teachers, administrators, and others help create a culture in schools that promotes the mental, physical, social, emotional, and academic well-being of students?
During our September Disrupting with Purpose (DWP) dialogue – Climate Change: Education Edition – our panel of young people touched on this topic and provided an insightful view of their experiences and perspectives on K-12 education. As the dialogue ended, it was evident that we had only scratched the surface of such a complex issue as school culture. At the encouragement of our youth panelists, the next DWP installment will devote more time to discussing school culture and offer our youth panelists space to express their thoughts and ideas.
Climate Change: Education Edition, Part 2, will continue the discourse about how we can shift the cultural climate of education in a way that cultivates emotional well-being, equitable opportunities, and academic success for Minnesota’s Black, Indigenous, and students of color. To that end, the multigenerational discussion will address two topics: (1) promoting a culture that is conducive to the emotional well-being and success of students, teachers, administrators, and staff; and (2) the importance of including young people’s voices in how to improve the current environment.
Although our youth panelists will be the driving force and centered in the discussion, we will invite adult practitioners and others with knowledge in the education field to weigh in on the issues our young people raise during the discussion and to frame the issue of mental health for school-age youth.
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Balfanz, R., & and Byrnes, V. (2020) Connecting social-emotional development, academic achievement, and on-track outcomes: A multi-district study of grades 3 to 10 students supported by City Year AmeriCorps members. Everyone Graduates Center, The Johns Hopkins School of Education. https://new.every1graduates.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/201200507_EGC_CityYearReport_BalfanzByrnesFINAL.pdf