Experience speaking at Mackinac conference leaves lasting impression on young attendees

The Skillman Foundation brought three young people – including myself — to speak at the Mackinac Policy Conference this past summer, which made us the youngest speakers in the history of the annual gathering.

The Mackinac Policy Conference is the Detroit Regional Chamber’s statewide event, which allows Michigan’s most influential audience to engage in collaborative dialogue on the state’s economic future.

Many of the speakers are business owners, senators, congressmen, mayors, non-profit leaders and even the Governor of Michigan. The array of leadership at this conference emphasizes the importance of this event. However, there is one group of people who have been historically uninvited to the conference — youth.

The Skillman Foundation is a children’s philanthropy that invests in the brilliance and power of Detroit youth. The foundation’s new President and CEO, Angelique Powers, expressed the need for youth to be present at the conference in a substantial way.

“Young people live in intersectional identities and understand systems,” she said there. “We are following them and welcoming all who are willing to get somewhere new with us…we must give youth the power to be grant makers and invite them to the Mackinac stage.”

On Tuesday, May 31, three Skill– man Foundation President’ Youth Council Members — myself, Logan Newman and Mohammed Mutakim took a brisk ferry ride to Mackinac Island.

The Skillman team was well received and many guests looked forward to the “Engaging Gen-Z in Future Building” panel discussion. This was a new experience for us, but nothing was going to stand in our way or stop us amplifying our voices.

The panel discussion was the highlight of the conference. A majority of the leaders who were present for the panel discussion were eager to engage us after the conference to plan ways they can bring more youth to the table at their organizations.

This experience was the most humbling I have ever had, but I am eager to see what changes are forth- coming with youth leading the way.