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Minnesota Next: 9 of the Twin Cities’ most inspiring teens

From left: Gabriel Spinks, Isra Hirsi, Ridwan Mohamed

From left: Gabriel Spinks, Isra Hirsi, Ridwan Mohamed Colin Michael Simmons

Each February, when Minnesota is at its literal and metaphorical darkest, City Pages publishes the annual People Issue. It’s a way to introduce a little light while recognizing noteworthy folks around town, often those who protect democracy or advocate for immigrant rights or champion underserved youth.

But more and more, we’ve noticed it’s youth themselves improving our neighborhoods and our world. Malala Yousafzai, Greta Thunberg, the survivor-activists of Parkland—they’re the ones taking a stand and making a difference, even in the face of adults who don’t want to hear about tough topics like gun control or climate change. And the Twin Cities is bursting with incredible young people, a collection of activists, but also artists and athletes and more who are already enriching the world around them and will continue to for decades to come.

Here are nine who inspire us.

Isra Hirsi: The Climate Advocate
The U.S. Youth Climate Strike co-founder who's working for intersectionality in the climate justice movement.

Ridwan Mohamed: The Wordsmith
This sharp-minded, fast-talking debate master is ready to make a more just world.

Avahnii Lewis: The Designer
At 17, she's done work for everyone from the Guthrie to the NCAA.

Gabriel Spinks: The Urban Engineer
An advocate who knows it's the youth Minneapolis' 2040 plan will impact most.

Josh Groven: The Gun Activist
Organizing walk-outs and sit-ins to enact more sensible firearms policies.

Winfrey Oenga: The Poet
Mixing words with visual art, she's impressed some of the Twin Cities' most renowned artists.

Jamesa Robinson: The Wrestler
A "Swiss Army Knife" athlete inspiring other young women to be strong.

Ben Smith: The Whistleblower
Holding St. Paul accountable for the worker rights it promised.

Spencer Venancio: The Chef
The youngest person ever to host pop-ups at restaurants like Travail and Popol Vuh.