By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Aspiring lawmakers, judges and lobbyists filled the halls of the state capital as YMCA’s Youth in Government session got underway Friday.

It’s the 75th year young people have taken over the capital and practice open government without the confines of partisanship.

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The weekend before Minnesota State lawmakers head into session, about one thousand young people are warming up their seats.

“They are taking the roles as legislators, lawyers, judges, lobbyists, media officials,” said Orville Lindquist, who works with the YMCA.

It’s here these young people talk about real issues, issues impacting their lives.

From housing to immigration, police and race there is no topic untouched.

“This year I am really working on natural resources and a clean Minnesota that’s been my biggest platform, is kind of moving forward towards and effective means of a natural resource that we can use as a state to kind of get closer to a net zero Minnesota,” said Wesley Ross, this year’s governor.

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In all, 18 youth leaders were elected by their peers.

“To have youth from all over the state who have different backgrounds and different histories come together and work together, it’s monumental to really see what our generation can do leading forward into the future,” Ross said.

In these sessions, respectful discussion about possible solutions and issues we face as Minnesotans take place. For some, this experience helps them find their voice.

“I really think this program changes lives and it’s really changed mine,” said Ella Pribyl.

Pribyl says this experience will help her no matter what profession she decides to pursue.

“Getting more public speaking skills, getting confidence, I’ve met so many people from around the state, it really becomes like a family” Pribyl said.

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Kids from grades 8 to 12 participate in Youth in Government to find their voices and to learn how to use them out in the wider world.

Reg Chapman