South Dakota Youth Activism is a platform that empowers young activists to stand for the rights of LGBTQIA2S+, disabled, BIPOC, and underrepresented South Dakotans through education, legislative action, and community engagement.
This youth-led organization brings diverse, young perspectives to the table of advocacy by amplifying their influence in policy-making and community engagement to bring more awareness around ignored issues and encourage a change to the system.
With intersectionality at the forefront of our values, we will ensure the voices of the affected communities will be centered in the conversation and all actions we take.
We value empathy because every person has something to learn and somewhere to grow as a better human.
We prioritize accessibility as a necessary aspect in all our efforts because we believe everyone deserves a welcoming place at the table and their needs to be recognized.
Youth will be a central voice that drives policy decisions to uplift underrepresented communities in South Dakota. Through youth-led projects and campaigns, our surrounding communities will be united and empowered thanks to youth engagement paving the way for a brighter future. We see youth thriving as a force to be reckoned with in this state of South Dakota.
Vice President / Secretary
Elliott is an ambitious young advocate born and raised in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. With the overall goal of making his state a better place for underrepresented communities, this autistic, genderqueer leader has started challenging the norms by getting involved in the legislative process and taking on entrepreneurship at 16 years old. Elliott has found their path to building change in their community through working with several advocacy organizations including but not limited to, SD American Civil Liberties Union, the Transformation Project, GLSEN, and LEAD South Dakota. They first discovered what leadership meant by reestablishing the Gender & Sexuality Alliance (GSA) after-school club at their high school and became a member of GLSEN’s (Gay Lesbian Student Education Network) 2021-2022 National Student Council. During the 2022 state legislative session, he testified against the trans-exclusion act of HB1006 “fairness in women’s sports” and in 2023 he testified against HB1080 which would ban minors like himself from gender-affirming care in SD. Passionate about all things social justice and politics, they will ensure that the next generation of marginalized youth will be better elevated in the advocacy world here in South Dakota.
Elliott is the founder and head director of South Dakota Youth Activism, an organization that came out of the passion for amplifying youth voices and bringing a fundamental but missed value of activism in this state: intersectionality. With this vision of a youth-led coalition of change-makers, Elliott intends to build SDYA’s structure with full equity-based inclusion of BIPOC, disabled, and LGBTQ+ peoples and make certain that the intersections of these identities will not go unheard.
Shelsy is a 20-year-old hardworking and joyful individual of Hispanic descent. Their parents immigrated from El Salvador to give her a change for a better life. Shelsy was born in Georgia, but their family moved to Minnesota when she was very young. They are now a student at the University of South Dakota majoring in Political Science. They hope that they will become an immigration lawyer. Shelsy learned her passion about language and culture very early on. Her hometown was very diverse but still struggled with the mistreatment towards people of color and immigrants in her community. Shelsy also discovered they were bisexual in a very Christian immigrant household. They saw that lack of acceptance from people of color regarding queerness. Yet they also saw the lack of acceptance from queer communities regarding race. Shelsy’s goal is to be a voice for people of color and specifically queer people of color who have struggled with finding their place. They are a huge advocate for intersectionality and love to uplift individuals who may not have a voice. This kind individual hopes that one day they will be able to uplift your voice too!
Khadidja is a remarkable, inspiring individual who is passionate about promoting peace and positivity. She was born in Chad and moved to America with her family at a young age. Growing up Khadidja quickly became aware of the challenges she faced due to her skin color, religion, and her medical condition (type one diabetes) but instead of letting it bring her down, she developed a deep passion for fighting for change. Khadidja is a member of the JDFR Children's Congress 2023 and is the leader of the BIPOC Advocacy Team of South Dakota Youth Activism. She is an advocate for those who face similar struggles and hopes to make a difference in the world. Khadidja's advocacy work has taken many forms, from attending peaceful protests to working with local organizations and after-school clubs to promote diversity and inclusion. She is a passionate advocate for those who are marginalized and seeks to empower others to become agents of change in their own communities. Khadidja firmly believes that everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity, regardless of their background or circumstances. Khadidja is a shining example of how one person can make a meaningful difference in the world.
Everett Smith is currently a 17-year-old living in Sioux Falls who was born in a little town in Michigan called Baroda and moved at the age of 7. He has been interested in advocacy ever since it showed up to protest against the passing of HB1080 in April. He is known to be loud with its opinions and thorough in his research. One of it's biggest role models is his older sister, who works as a case manager and is a recovering addict, and who is one of its biggest supporters, along with his other sister. It wants to make sure that South Dakota can be a safe place, if not for him, than for the people younger than it that will follow. He is diagnosed with ADHD, Anxiety, and Depression, and has congenital hearing loss. It has plans to go to college after graduating to major in psychology and minor in art. He will continue to be a voice for his community and for those who can't speak for themselves.