Erik Skogquist Explains How Youth Can Become Involved in City Programs and Government
Learning about his family history in the Anoka County as a child inspired a lot of Erik Skogquist’s passion for volunteerism in the community. After studying political science and urban studies at the University of Minnesota, Skogquist returned to Anoka to start a family with his wife and fellow Anoka native, Amanda. Today, he works as a property appraiser in the area but also volunteers his time to several community functions including Cub and Boy Scouts, school activities and the Anoka County Historical Society. Erik Skogquist is also a member of the Anoka City Council, where he contributes his knowledge of urban planning and local history for the betterment of the community.
As a father and coming from a family dedicated to local history, Erik Skogquist understands the importance of getting young people involved in their communities during their formative years. “Civic responsibility starts at a young age,” he says. Luckily, there are many ways youth can get involved in their local city programs and government: through youth councils, volunteerism, and even in school.
In Minnesota, there are groups of dedicated youth working towards civic improvements across the state. In particular, Erik Skogquist recommends young people check out the Minnesota Youth Council, which was formally recognized in 2013 by the Minnesota Legislature for its work in the community. The council supports young people looking to make a difference through specific projects as well as general advocacy. It works through a youth-adult partnership model that allows for mentorship, guidance, and support, empowering young people to make their voices heard. There are subcommittees for every interest, including health and wellness, environmental justice, education equity, and juvenile justice.
If joining a council is a little too big a leap for the youth in your life, Erik Skogquist recommends getting them involved with volunteer activities. Most towns and cities are regularly looking for individuals to help facilitate their programs. Local old age homes are often looking for an extra helping hand or visitor while many sports programs that run through the city require people to organize games and referee.
For those interested in taking a more independent approach, organizing park clean-ups with a group of friends within the community is a great way to get started. No matter the activity, Skogquist believes that offering one’s time to the betterment of the community not only benefits others, but helps build responsibility, a sense of belonging, and confidence in youth.
While children often learn about government and their various functions in school, Skogquist recommends encouraging your local schools to take education a step further. Student councils, environmental awareness committees, and mock trials are all great ways youth can test the waters of government functions in a safe and educational environment. For Skogquist, it’s also an opportunity to pique students’ interest in local history and the governing bodies that inform it. For example, Erik Skogquist was heavily involved in creating a local walking tour for school children that focuses on the history of the town through the Anoka County Historical Society. The tour was a success for students at Lincoln Elementary School, who even got to learn about the history of their very own school building.
No matter your particular interests, there are ways to get involved with government and city programs right at home or even on the broader state level. Whether you join a youth council, volunteer or work in a city program, or get involved at school, Skogquist believes participating in these programs helps build confidence and leadership and communication skills — all highly valuable no matter what you end up doing in life!