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.
Emily Wellen -
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.
Rahhel Haile -
Program Director (she/her/hers)
Rahhel Haile is a co-founder of the MNYC. Rahhel is a first generation Eritrean American 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. She believes in the power of combining grassroots and electoral work to create a future that young people can be proud of. Outside of work, she likes working on her BIPOC podcast Pass the Mic, finding her best camera angles, and obsessing over true crime. Rahhel is a proud Slytherin and is finally warming up to being a Capricorn.
Aidan Ries - UMD Campus Organizer (he/him/his)
Aidan is a sophomore at UMD where he studies political science and finance. He began his work in politics when he started working with the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group his freshman year, and has since gone on to become a delegate for the DFL.
He cares deeply about socio-economic inequity and hopes to do what he can to promote a more equal and empathetic society. One day he hopes to move to Seattle, but until then, he likes to spend his free time, well, mostly in his bed when he can- watching movies or binging Netflix.
Alexis Tolbert - Carleton Campus Fellow (she/her/hers)
Anna Keltto - UMTC Campus Fellow
Anna is a junior at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, where she is pursuing a dual degree in Sociology of Law and Political Science, as well as minoring in leadership and social justice. She has been following politics actively since Obama ran in 2008. A highlight of her time at the U so far was learning about reconciliation and "decolonizing her mind" while studying abroad in South Africa. This is her first organizing experience.
Anna loves learning (definitely a Ravenclaw) and has aspirations to attend law school. Her goal in life is to create meaningful systemic change.
In her free time, Anna enjoys cuddling with her cat Gizmo, practicing yoga, and playing Candy Crush (she is on level 1251).
Aurora Vautrin - Community Program Coordinator (she/her/hers)
Aurora Vautrin grew up in Duluth, Minnesota where she developed a passion for environmental and social justice. She has been organizing since 2010, starting as an intern with the Minnesota DFL and then Women Winning.
In 2016 Aurora organized Minnesota's 8th Congressional District for Hillary Clinton, and in 2017 Aurora signed on to organize for Erin Murphy's campaign for Governor. Aurora graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College in 2018 with degrees in Political Science and Gender and Women Sexuality Studies.
In her free time, she tries not to adopt animals and enjoys hiking, reading, and camping.
Bethany Bobo - Carleton Campus Organizer (she/her/hers)
Bethany is a 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.
Brian Rosas - UMTC Campus Fellow (he/him/his)
Brian is a senior at the U of M Twin Cities with a major in Political science and minor in Communications! Born and raised in Minneapolis, he has worked for many local campaigns. He hopes to possibly leave a political impact in Minneapolis one day. During his free time he enjoys exploring his creativity by designing clothes and looking up the latest fashion runways and trends.
Brianna Carey - Community Organizer (she/her/hers)
Brianna is a recent St. Cloud State University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Science and a minor in Gender & Women Studies. She was an active change agent on her campus, which fueled her to found the Pan African & Ally Student Summit: a conference geared towards unity, empowerment and transcending social inequities. In her free time she enjoys visiting happy hours for the discounted menu, and gets overly excited when she finds a good bargain. Although, she is more excited that her first “big-girl” job out of college is working at MNYC as an organizer, and serving the communities she is most passionate about.
Claire Schmitz - UMD Campus Fellow (she/her/hers)
Connor Meinke - UMTC Campus Organizer (he/him/his)
Connor is a senior at the University of Minnesota Studying Political Science and English Literature. He is new to organizing in Minnesota. His interest in politics was sparked at a young age when he participated in protests against Act 10 in Wisconsin. As an organizer, he started with the 2016 election, but really found his love for organizing working with Alondra Cano's campaign in the ninth ward city council race. After graduating later this year, Connor hopes to go to law school and work in the public service law sector in hopes of advancing the access to justice for all.
In his free time Connor enjoys meeting dogs, biking, maybe both at the same time, and learning to cook good food!
Eleanor Konz - UMTC Campus Fellow (she/her/hers)
Eleanor was born and raised in Minneapolis. She’s a junior at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities majoring in Political Science and minoring in Youth Studies. She discovered her passion for politics while taking Government in High School amidst the 2016 presidential campaign session.
She has a passion for young people and public education. Beyond her role with MNYC, she’s also a nanny and a student leader with the Women for Political Change student group at the U.
She loves walking her dog, cleaning her house (surprisingly!), spending time with friends and family, and traveling. She’s excited to spend her upcoming spring semester in Rome!
Emeka Monwuba - St. Cloud State Campus Organizer (he/him/his)
Emeka is a Cyber security graduate student at St. Cloud State who, though primarily involved in tech, is also passionate about politics, volunteering and addressing issues that plague underprivileged societies.
He was involved with the #NotTooYoungToRun movement that brought about the reduction of the public service eligibility ages in Nigeria.
In his spare time, he likes to run long distance and binge on TV shows.
Guillermo Perez - UMTC Campus Organizer (they/them/theirs)
Guillermo is a fourth-year at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities where they study Political Science and Xicanx/Latinx Studies. Their passion for social justice stems from lived experience as an immigrant and Nahua queer from México. They’ve worked on local electoral campaigns as well as held several positions in student government at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities where they've driven for change to help marginalized communities on and off campus.
They love watching and playing soccer and absolutely love everything about birds! They enjoy spreading joy and creating spaces for queer people of color wherever they go!
Hallelujah Tamene - Community Coordinator (she/her/hers)
Hallelujah Tamene is a 2018 graduate from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. She is a daughter of Ethiopian parents who give her grit, passion, and spices. She is gifted in juggling... dual identity; finding an intersectional framework as her key to survival.
She is a young person with callused hands and a soft heart. She loves food and has been cursed with a wicked sweet tooth. She is a youth worker, educator, poet, activist, and optimist. She spends much of her time smiling at the beauty in life and digging for silver linings in the depths of dark realities. She is an avid supporter of youth agency and transformation through collaborative work. She believes that with honest compassion and empathy, personal experiences can be shared and perspectives respectfully critiqued.
Emotion is her biggest weapon and often her most destructive characteristic; and through reflective writing, she aims to process the thickness of her feelings productively.
Inika Raikar - UMTC Campus Organizer (she/her/hers)
Inika is a junior at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities where she is studying Global Studies and Political Science. New to organizing, her first political experience was when she previously worked on a local campaign where she realized her passion for politics and issue-based movements, something she hopes to carry with her into her career. On campus, she spends her time fostering community for students from multicultural backgrounds and advocating for a more inclusive society.
Inika enjoys spending her free time reading, re-watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and consuming excessive amounts of tea.
Kayla Farhang -
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.
Lauren Behling - Community Organizer (she/her/hers)
Lauren is a recent graduate from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, she studied Political Science and Global Studies with a concentration in Human Rights. She recently interned on a statewide campaign and has volunteered for Planned Parenthood. She’s passionate about Voting Rights and Reproductive Justice.
In her free time she loves going to concerts with friends, turning off her brain to watch the Real Housewives (especially New York City), and blessing people with her knowledge of astrology.
Leah Soule -
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.
Mariem Zaghdoudi -
St. Olaf Campus Organizer (she/her/hers)
Mariem is a 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 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.
Maxyne Friesen -
Digital Organizer (she/her/hers)
Hailing from Canada, Maxyne Friesen had never tasted 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.
Ruth K. Cabrera - UMD Campus Fellow (she/her/hers)
Ruth is majoring in Urban Studies and Latin American studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth. She’s passionate about culture, universal human rights, and restorative justice (as of recent!).
Valuing community engagement and interaction immensely, she hopes to work in the field someday, maybe in a disaster relief reorganization.
Her favorite artist is Ana Mendieta, and she loves spending time with friends and family, her beagle-basset hound, and writing short stories.
Sean Lim - UMTC Campus Fellow (he/him/his)
Sean is a freshman at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities studying Biology and Political Science. He is a first generation Malaysian-Chinese American born in Minneapolis and raised in Roseville, Minnesota. His involvement in politics started during the 2016 election cycle when he volunteered for the Minnesota DFL and Senator Bernie Sanders’ Presidential bid at a local capacity. More recently, Sean has actively supported Ilhan Omar’s campaign for U.S. Congress.
Sean believes that getting potential voters excited about the political process can be a powerful force for change - especially when it comes to crucial issues such as socioeconomic justice and environmental protection. After graduating, he hopes to attain a masters degree in public administration and to work on environmental protection research and legislation for the federal government.
In his free time, Sean enjoys biking around the Twin Cities, making vinyl stickers, and collecting foreign currency.
Tristan Voegeli - St. Olaf Campus Fellow (he/him/his)
Tristan is a senior political science and American studies double major at St. Olaf College and is originally from Winona, Minnesota. He has had some experience in elections and political organizing in the past, but looks forward to focusing on student issues and student engagement from a non-partisan perspective in this crucial time. Tristan is a camp counselor in the summer and is the creator of the smash-hit new sport “Tristan ball."
In his free time he enjoys nerding out to health care policy podcasts, playing intramural basketball, and rewatching "Good Will Hunting.”
Garrison McMurtrey - Board Chair (he/him/his)
Garrison McMurtrey is currently the Senior Public Affairs Associate at Target Corp. Prior to his current position, he worked as the Outreach Director for Senator Amy Klobuchar. Most of Garrison's career has been in political organizing and has worked on races on the national, state, and local levels.
He believes in the mission of this organization because for far too long the voices of young people have not been heard, yet so much that is done legislatively impacts the lives of young people. Having an organization like the MN Youth Collective that engages, educates, and provides our youth with the resources they need to make the changes they want to see if so pivotal in today's world.
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)