Shawn Willis

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Shawn2Shawn Willis, youth coordinator

What sector of the community do you represent at the coalition meetings?

I am happy to contribute to a few sectors for the coalition; education, youth and government. I work for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe as a Youth Coordinator inside the Niigaan Program and am the new advisor for the Isle youth group, United Leaders for Change and the Onamia Youth group, OY!  I also have the pleasure of working for the good people of Onamia as a city councilman, (now mayor).

Why do you feel passionate about the youth in our community?

I was raised in Onamia.  I have worked with the youth inside the Mille Lacs community for the past eighteen years.  I am raising two kids inside the community.  My current job allows me to engage with youth on a daily basis.  It is a very rewarding feeling watching the youth that you have had contact with make positive choices and go on to do great things.

What are the strengths in your community?

One of the biggest overlooked strengths our community has to offer is the many good role models.  Our youth have a wide range of people to look up to.  Role models from the Mille Lacs area doing great things for the area.  People like Joseph Nayquonabe, Jr., Commissioner of Corporate Affairs, Brady Hermel school counselor, Jaime Strohmeier school teacher.  We can all be role models and make an impact the lives of kids in our community.  Role models come in many different forms.  We all need to embrace being positive role models for our youth.

What are some current resources in the community that help prevent underage drinking?

I am extremely proud of our work at the Chiminising Niigaan program.  The Niigaan program offers a safe and healthy environment where teens can come and make positive choices.  We offer many activities from open gym to baking.  The varied activities provide alternative outlets for our youth to make positive life choices. The positive messages, education and activities of our coalition reinforce those choices.

Other comments or thoughts about the coalition and your involvement?

I am looking forward to working with other coalition members, including Joe Walsh and area youth groups, on getting social hosting ordinances put into place.  It’s also encouraging seeing new faces joining the coalition to make a positive impact on the local area.

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