Being involved in my community and taking initiatives to affect positive change has been my passion since I was 14 years old. I grew up and live in Cedar-Riverside area in Minneapolis, a culturally diverse and thriving neighborhood. This community faces many challenges such as unemployment, good education and access to better health care. As a socially-active youth in the community, I was fortunate to have the support and guidance of experienced and dedicated group of people who mentored and helped me learn the robes in community engagement. Being a community leader is a challenging feat, but I believe it is through challenge and adversity that one acquires the strength and character to become a strong leader.
My passion for community involvement began in my early youth. Ever since I was kid, my mother always taught me to give back selflessly to one’s community. I strongly believe that young people need to take active role in shaping a better future for themselves and for their neighborhoods. As the co-founder of the Cedar Riverside Youth Council (CRYC), a youth-led organization that has undertaken ambitious projects including Youth Awareness Week held every Summer to highlight pressing youth issues such as crime, safety, drug and substance dependency and organize rally against youth violence. The organization also organizes Awards night to recognize and appreciate the contribution of select youth for their outstanding contribution in their community.
As an emerging young community leader, I enjoy challenges. In the past year the CRYC was engaged in opening a dialogue between US Department of Homeland Security Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, local police and youth in our community on issues of concern such as police harassment, inclusion of new Americans in the police force and forging better relationship with members of the law enforcement groups.
Engaged youth is critical to any community’s success and growth. The Somali American youth in Minneapolis have become real champions of change in improving the image of their communities, the relations with federal, state and local governments their communities, and continue charter new and creative ways to fight crime, encourage education, and advocate for social justice.
Mohamed “MJ” Jama is a high school senior at Ubah Medical Academy and co-founder and president of the Cedar Riverside Youth Council. He also serves on the West Bank Community Coalition (WBCC) and Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP).