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State Honoree

Erica Whisney

Minnesota

Erica Whisney, 18, of Alpha, Minn., a member of the Jackson County 4-H in Lakefield and a senior at Jackson County Central High School in Jackson, created “YOUth Can Make A Difference,” a program that seeks to place high school students on local community advisory and policymaking boards. “It doesn’t make much sense for adults in the community to make so many decisions that affect youth without consulting them for their views and ideas,” said Erica. She also felt that serving on local boards would teach young people about citizenship, build self-confidence and leadership abilities, and show her community that young people have valuable perspectives to contribute. After Erica presented her proposal to 20 local advisory boards, nine agreed to participate. Next, Erica recruited 17 interested students and helped prepare them by conducting public speaking workshops and mock board meetings. Finally, Erica matched the young people with the boards based on interests and schedules. Some of the boards have even given their youth members full voting rights.