The Minnesota Youth Collective is built on passion and community. Our team includes young people from all over the state, with a wide array of community, electoral, and political organizing experience.
Executive Director (she/her/hers)
Emily Wellen founded the Minnesota Youth Collective along with our Program Director, Rahhel Haile. She started her political career working for the Obama campaign and has since worked for candidate and issue campaigns in Chicago, Oregon and of course, Minnesota. Emily has seen first-hand the power of young people in politics and community organizing, and she's ready for a world that is queerer, browner, and witchier than this one.
Emily doesn’t work all the time, though- when she has a minute, she loves putting together hip-hop playlists on Spotify and scheming how to make her her dog, Maggie, Instagram famous.
Program Director (she/her/hers)
Rahhel Haile is a co-founder of the MNYC. Rahhel is a first generation Eritrean who has called Minnesota home for most of her life. She has a dual degree in Political Science and Finance from the University of Minnesota-Morris. Previously, she worked at the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group as the Economic Justice Organizer and at SEIU 284 as a Union Organizer.
Throughout her career and through her work at MNYC, Rahhel has prioritized co-organizing with young people of color without co-opting their movements. The stars have determined that she is a Capricorn but she disagrees.
Bethany Bobo- Carleton Campus Organizer (she/her/hers)
Bethany is a rising junior English major and Music Performance minor at Carleton College who is fairly new to organizing and Minnesota politics. Coming from Olive Branch, Mississippi, she brings a unique perspective to her role at MNYC as a MinneSota transplant. She is the cofounder of student-founded, -run, and -oriented organization #CarlsTalkBack which focuses on institutional change through radical demonstration at Carleton and was also her first exposure to organizing.
In her free-time she enjoys using Groupon to find new restaurants to try and Facetiming her dog, Tyson.
Dani Valverde- Organizing Intern (she/her/hers)
Dani is a rising freshman at the University of Chicago. In high school, she did advocacy work surrounding gender-based violence, volunteered on a political campaign, and sustained multiple injuries while being part of the wrestling team.
She doesn't drink tea or coffee, considers herself a dog person, and thinks every moment is a good moment for ice cream (especially if it’s paired with a Netflix marathon).
Campus Program Coordinator
Kayla Farhang is a first-generation college graduate from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. Her passion for immigrant rights and racial justice and education reform fueled her pursuit of a Political Science and Global Studies degree. With nearly half a decade of organizing experiences, Kayla has been enriched in the Twin Cities community. Currently she serves as a New Sector RISE fellow and board member of the Young Nonprofit Professional Network, supporting young professionals through leadership development, networking, and EDI policy development.
Her graduate school aspirations are to study human rights law. In her free time, Kayla spends time with her cats, Angela Davis and Young Thug.
Campus Program Coordinator
Leah Soule is a 2016 graduate from Gustavus Adolphus College. She spent a large majority of her time on campus working on reproductive justice and sexual violence prevention work, serving as a Crisis Advocate and Clinic Escort. She is one of the cofounders of IfNotNow Twin Cities, building a vibrant and inclusive movement within the American Jewish community, across generations and organizational affiliations. Leah is passionate about addressing conflict and harm within movement spaces by building systems that do not rely on criminalization.
She is fond of animals with human names, especially her cat, George, and is happiest in a canoe.
St. Olaf Campus Organizer (she/her/hers)
Mariem is a rising junior at St. Olaf College where she is majoring in Political Science and Biology. Coming from Tunisia, she is passionate about policy, the environment, and how those two intersect. She is a huge Student Government nerd and spends her time working with the St. Olaf Board of Regents to bring students' issues to the highest level of decision making.
In her limited free time, Mariem enjoys eating Takis and watching Mad Men.
Mary Franz- Duluth Campus Organizer (she/her/hers)
Mary is a rising senior at UMD studying political science and communications. She became a vegetarian at the age of 4 when her older brother convinced her that meat came from her stuffed animals- she knows differently now, but has stayed strong in her veggie lifestyle.
Her first organizing moment came when she started a recycling/compost program at her high school and went into every classroom to discuss why it mattered. She's passionate about affordable housing and economic disparities throughout Minnesota.
In her free time she loves hiking in the Northwoods, traveling, and being crafty with her fur child, Coco.
Twin Cities Organizer (she/her/hers)
Hailing from Canada, Maxyne Friesen had never heard of maple syrup until coming to the United States. Finishing up her final year as an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota, she’ll be leaving with an Environmental Policy degree. Maxyne believes her first moment in organizing was when she got all the girls to line up for kickball at recess because she was sick of the boys not allowing it. Since then, she has been organizing with MPIRG and MN350 where she first started working on pipeline resistance in 2015.
As a lover of paints and guitar, some of her most meaningful organizing moments have been when she’s been able to incorporate art and music into the work she does. Maxyne feels most at home in Quetico Provincial Park.
Olivia Osei-Tutu- Duluth Campus Organizer (she/her/hers)
Olivia is a sophomore at UMD studying political science, and hoping to go to law school after graduating (apparently you can’t just listen to podcasts on law and get a degree that way). In high school Olivia was part of an organization that helped improve the way her school approached meeting their students needs for diversity and inclusion. The feeling of being apart of something bigger than herself is what got her interested in organizing work. In her free time
Olivia likes to spend way too much time making Spotify playlists, creating art, and playing guitar. She is always looking for new book recs so don’t be afraid to send them her way.
Garrison McMurtrey- Board Chair (he/him/his)
Lidya Makonnen- Board Vice-Chair (she/her/hers)
Lidya Makonnen is an Outreach Director in the Office of United States Senator Amy Klobuchar, where she is the in-state lead on issues related to business, commerce, banking, manufacturing, export promotion, travel and tourism, consumer protection, workforce development, faith groups, foreign affairs, and communities of color. Previously, she held multiple roles in the Office of Governor Mark Dayton and Lt. Governor Tina Smith including Scheduling Director for Lt. Governor Tina Smith, Director of Strategy and Operations for the Young Women's Initiative of MN (a partnership with the Women's Foundation of MN), Appointments Coordinator, and Special Projects Coordinator. Lidya earned her B.A. in Political Science from the University of Minnesota in 2015.
She joined the MN Youth Collective Board because she believes in mobilizing young people as a catalyst for necessary change.
Geoff Koslig- Board Treasurer (he/him/his)
Andrea Duarte-Alonso- Board Member (she/her/hers)
Elizabeth King Avíles- Board Member (she/her/hers)
Elizabeth King Avíles is the Visual Content & Brand Specialist at Alliance for a Better Minnesota. Prior to that, she worked for First Avenue & 7th Street entry, multidisciplinary creative studios like Pixel Farm, and advertising agencies like Terri & Sandy in New York.
Marissa Luna- Board Member (she/her/hers)