The death of George Floyd and the unrest that followed created a long-delayed but urgently needed discussion on police brutality, inequities in the criminal justice system and racial injustice more broadly. The Minnesota Urban Debate League (MNUDL) and Star Tribune Opinion believe in the power of young minds and voices and put out the call last year to students between the ages of 10 and 18 to give us their best ideas about how our communities can continue the hard work of responding to these problems.

The MNUDL is a program of Augsburg University, which provides resources and programming to support competitive academic debate in Twin Cities high schools and middle schools. Its mission is to empower students through competitive academic debate to become engaged learners, critical thinkers and active global citizens who are effective advocates for themselves and their communities.

In addition, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx collaborated with the MNUDL and Star Tribune Opinion to connect the judges and provide prizes.

The task for the students was to create an original written essay, video or audio file that described one or two specific changes our community, state or nation should make to reduce racial inequities and injustices in the criminal justice system.

The result was many thoughtful ideas from tomorrow's leaders. Submissions were viewed or read by judges from the MNUDL and Star Tribune Opinion; Timberwolves associate head coach David Vanterpool; Lynx assistant coach Rebekkah Brunson; vice president of programs at RISE Kim Miller, and Minneapolis Foundation's senior vice president of impact, Chanda Smith Baker.

To view the submissions, click on the links below.

Criminal justice reform youth essay, video and audio contest winners:

High School

First place: Toluwalase Akintola, Chloe Bromeland, Kaelyn Chen, Ashley Jones, Jackleyn Ong

Second: Semona Robel

Third: Alisha Hassanali (video)

Fourth: Nathaniel Genene, Francisco Navarro, Sonia Svedahl (video)

Fifth: Elhan Omar

Middle School

First place: Devarsh Borah (video)

Second: Sonia Kharbanda

Third: Bre'jhnae Washington