Detroit Regional Chamber > Mackinac Policy Conference Media Coverage > Amplifying Youth Voices for Education Reform at the Mackinac Policy Conference

Amplifying Youth Voices for Education Reform at the Mackinac Policy Conference

June 29, 2023

June 26, 2023
Julia Gohlke

The panel, hosted and moderated by Angelique Power, president, and chief executive officer of The Skillman Foundation, featured Evamelo Oleita, co-founder of Black Lives Matter in All Capacities, and Imani Harris, youth education activist, and communications lead for nonprofit 482Forward, and Joe Tate, Michigan Speaker of the House, who shed light on crucial issues affecting young people and the urgent need for comprehensive educational reform.

Their perspectives and personal experiences highlighted the challenges faced by marginalized communities, calling attention to the necessity of including youth voices in policy discussions.

The Skillman Foundation’s commitment to amplifying these voices and promoting systemic change signifies a promising step forward.

Empowering Youth to Navigate Career Paths

Evamelo Oleita, a passionate advocate for educational equity, expressed concerns about the limited opportunities available for students to explore various career paths. The traditional education system often neglects to offer alternatives to college education, leaving young people unsure about their future prospects.

By providing access to trade schools and alternative pathways, we can empower students to make confident decisions about their careers.

“Young people are being left out of these conversations. The fact that we are here right now at the Mackinac Policy Conference and there are not a lot of young people in this space.”

Additionally, Oleita emphasized the importance of incorporating technology into educational curricula to ensure students are prepared for the demands of the modern workforce.

Activating Communities and Amplifying Voices

Imani Harris, an inspiring youth activist, shared her journey of becoming a catalyst for change within her community. Dissatisfied with her school experience, Harris voiced her concerns to a senator, illustrating the power of individual voices in driving meaningful transformation. She highlighted the need to break down societal narratives that perpetuate inequality, urging a comprehensive examination of values, morals, and safety.

“Harris emphasized that education extends beyond textbooks and classrooms, with social media and the internet playing a crucial role in shaping young minds. By harnessing these mediums effectively, we can create positive change. When we show up, things change. I was inspired after learning how I can use my voice.”

Catalyzing Systemic Change

Angelique Power, representing The Skillman Foundation, emphasized the urgency of updating the educational system to address the needs of the modern world. Power noted that the current education framework primarily prepares students for traditional industrial jobs, failing to equip them with critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

To address this gap, The Skillman Foundation dedicates substantial resources to Detroit’s residents, supporting initiatives that foster creativity, entrepreneurship, and vision. By empowering young people and educators and amplifying their contributions, the foundation aims to reshape policies and create lasting systemic change.

The Skillman Foundation’s Commitment to Racial Equity

Power acknowledged The Skillman Foundation’s commitment to racial equity, acknowledging that an internal audit revealed areas for improvement in their policies, practices, and capital distribution.

“We take a good look at our own policies, practices, the way we distribute capital, we did a racial equity audit, we looked at our grants, vendors, endowment, and it wasn’t great. We took that audit and made it public – so that we have some accountability.”

Transparency and accountability are central to their mission, empowering community members to shape policy through grassroots efforts.

Recognizing that true change requires systemic transformation, the foundation prioritizes young people and educators as agents of change. By identifying and celebrating local change-makers, The Skillman Foundation serves as a platform to showcase their incredible work, inspiring others and fostering a community of collaboration.


The Skillman Foundation’s participation in the Mackinac Policy Conference exemplifies its dedication to amplifying youth voices and fostering educational reform.

Evamelo Oleita, Imani Harris, and Angelique Power provided compelling insights into the challenges faced by marginalized communities and the urgent need for systemic change.

By recognizing the power of young people and educators, The Skillman Foundation is leading the charge toward a more equitable and inclusive education system.

As we move forward, it is essential to continue engaging youth and diverse voices in policy discussions, ultimately creating an educational landscape that nurtures the talents and potential of all students.