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Freshmen to Watch: Rep. Yolanda Young

  

After 30 years of service to her neighbors in HD 22, Rep. Yolanda Young has taken these experiences and priorities with her to the state legislature. 

“I finally made up my mind to run when I realized that more than three decades of grassroots mobilization, working alongside my neighbors, and understanding my community’s needs and assets gave me tools that are useful for common-sense legislation,” she told The Missouri Times. “Additionally, many of my constituents and family encouraged me to run because of my many years of mobilizing and engaging the community.”

Young works as the managing director of Community Outreach and Engagement for Kansas City and has spent more than 30 years working for her community, where she lives with her husband and children. She and her family also own an urban farm in their community, another form of outreach to their district. 

“In the neighborhood where I live, my husband and I purchased an abandoned house along with several vacant lots that had been used for illegal dumping. We repurposed those lots to use a portion of the space as a basketball court/picnic area and the larger portion for gardening. Gardening gave me some of the comforts of my southern roots while providing healthy food for my family. Over the years, we’ve expanded the garden; thus increasing our production,” Young said. “As a result, we started an urban farm business venture, Young Family Farm. It has been a way to provide healthy food alternatives for more neighbors in the urban core and has given us the opportunity to sell our produce at the local farmers market.”

She said her experience with her farm has informed her time in the Capitol, including her service with agricultural policy. 

“There is important legislation to be passed as it relates to rural and urban farming and gardening,” she said. ”It is critical that the bills that are passed are good for Missouri farmers, consumers, and the natural environment. I am able to advocate for that as I serve on the Agriculture Policy Committee this session.”

Six members were sworn in at the beginning of session: (left to right) Rep. Mike Person, Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, Rep. Mark Sharp, Rep. Scott Cupps, Rep. Yolanda Young, and Rep. Trish Gunby. (HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS/TIM BOMMEL)

Of everything that’s happened during her first session, Young said she is most proud of her interactions with HD 22. 

“They contact my office on a regular basis with their questions, concerns, and comments. Many of them are engaged and I am honored to serve them,” she said. “One of the things that have surprised me at this point is that I was able to sponsor four pieces of legislation and co-sponsor nine in a short amount of time. I didn’t think that I could get that done since I came in on a special election and since the session has been disrupted due to the spread of COVID-19.”

Young is passionate about all of her legislation — which include bills on voting accessibility and healthcare — because of the potential to help marginalized individuals. 

“One example of this is HB 2561, which would provide a supplement for public schools to hire a school nurse and mental health professional. So many of our children suffer from chronic illnesses or they are dealing with various degrees of trauma. This is especially prevalent in low-income school districts. Access to school nurses and mental health professionals are critical to their ability to learn, to grow, to succeed. For some of these children, a school nurse is their only resource for any type of healthcare.”

Young said her main focus in the state legislature is her district and constituents: “My main priorities now will be the same priorities that I foresee in the future: bringing my constituents’ concerns to the state level and addressing them with legislative action.”