Skip to main content


2023 Together We Make A Difference Statewide Student Conference

Posted: Wednesday, December 6, 2023 - 2:19 PM

Together 2023

Energy, optimism and visions of change radiated from Minnesota’s high school student leaders today as they convened for the Minnesota State High School League’s student-centered statewide leadership conference at the St. Paul RiverCentre. The summit, entitled “Together in Partnership,” was created and organized by the League’s Student Advisory and Leadership Team (SALT).

Following eight regional meetings this fall, the statewide event featured 680 students from nearly 70 member schools in the continuing work to develop personal leadership skills, engaging with others collaboratively and leading their schools toward ensuring safe, more respectful and inclusive environments in education-based athletics and Fine Arts activities.

“It was a mix of both excitement and nervousness,” Minneapolis Washburn junior Yahya Yusuf said when asked about his emotions prior to the event. “Mostly, though, I was excited to meet with every athlete from all over Minnesota to hear their perspectives. I want to bring everything I learned back to Washburn, specifically about stopping the hate. There is so much more we can do. When a student says something, it means something important. Don’t not say anything in the face of adversity. I want to be that person to use my words more.”

The more than five-hour conference featured nationally-known speakers and a series of five breakout sessions that included professional input on Mental Health and Managing Adversity, Life Beyond High School and Strategies for Building Better Relationships.

‘One of the main things (I learned) is what it takes to be a leader,” said Fridley junior Aubrey Cochran-Starr. “I also learned how important mental health is. As leaders, we need to take care of our own mental health challenges so we can take care of others.”

Former Minnesota Viking defensive lineman Esera Tuaolo opened the conference with a powerful message that included a heartfelt message through song.

His encouragement to the student leaders included:

  • “Make sure that the younger generation knows that they don’t need to hate.”
  • “You have the opportunity to write your story in a positive way.”
  • “Create a more positive world.”
  • “Hate in any form is wrong. Help us fight the fight.”

In addition to the Minnesota State High School League, other professional groups pledging their support include: Minnesota Interscholastic Activities Administrators Association (MNIAAA), Association of Metropolitan School Districts (AMSD), Minnesota High School Coaches Association (MHSCA), Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals (MASSP), Minnesota School Boards Association (MSBA) and the Minnesota Association of School Administrators (MASA).

Together 2023

League Associate Director Charlie Campbell addressed the students to begin the conference.

Together 2023

Big Lake students, a.k.a. "Bleacher Captains" attended the conference.

Together 2023

Former professional football player, Esera Tuaolo, presented an introductory keynote addressing using song and powerful messaging for attendees entitled, "Hate is Wrong & Speak Up."

Together 2023

Students attended breakout sessions on leadership and developing strategies to support others.

Together 2023

Seema Pothini and Kenneth Essay led a breakout session providing concrete tools and strategies for speaking up immediately and effectively when hate, bias or derogatory comments occur.

Next Article

John’s Journal: Sitting On The Bench, Waiting To Return