Siyanne Redda is an 18-year-old senior at Washington High School and in her second year of serving on the Mayor's Youth Council. She also recently took to the podium at Mayor Paul TenHaken's State of the City address, where she talked about the importance of voting in local elections. She sat down this week with Sioux Falls Simplified to revisit that conversation ahead of the run-off election Tuesday.

Answers are edited for length and clarity. Responses are direct quotes from Redda.

Let's start by getting to know more about you. How did you get involved with the Mayor's Youth Council?

I just saw the flyer in the bathroom at school (two years ago), and I was like, OK, this seems kind of cool.

Obviously, when you're not 18, you don't have very much of a say in local governments or local politics.

  • The voice of the youth is muted at times, and I'm looking for ways to unmute myself.

I did (the youth council) junior year, and I reapplied because I had so much fun doing it. We get to put our input in stuff that we wouldn't have otherwise gotten the opportunity.

We're all about simplicity here. Why is civic engagement important to you in a sentence?

In society, many people can be silenced – I want to give their voice back.

What do you think keeps people from participating in local government?

I think what stops people the most is just a lack of knowledge. We know every four years we have a presidential election, but I feel like the smaller elections – it's just a lack of knowledge.

  • Unless I take it upon myself to ask my friends and learn more about it, I wouldn't know how to figure out where I'm voting, when do I need to get registered to vote, where do I get registered ... but it's way more important than any presidential election.

If there's a small percentage of people in a small city, your vote carries more weight.

If you could snap your fingers and add an election or civic-engagement resource to Sioux Falls, what would it be?

If I were to add a resource I would say advertise the elections in high schools – even if it's just advertising to seniors.

  • Once you know, at 18, all that information about voting ... it's going to carry with you wherever you go. Knowing that at a young age will jump-start your civic engagement and make you want to be more involved.

Can you share an example of something you've learned or something that's made you feel more connected to Sioux Falls while being on the Mayor's Youth Council?

We talk with a lot of people who work (in various city departments), and I feel like I'm just learning more about how the city runs.

  • Obviously the mayor can get a lot of criticism, but knowing exactly what his job entails – just knowing that makes me feel more connected ... you feel like you can trust the government because I know what's going on.
  • I know it can never be perfect, but I know they're trying their hardest.

Why is it important to vote on Tuesday?

It is important to vote on Tuesday because we have so much power – especially with how low voter turnout is, which is not a good thing, but one vote can really make or break an election.

Getting engaged, reading news sources is super important because to vote you should be well educated on what's going on, and just to be a well-educated citizen is super important as well.

What's next for you?

In the fall, I'm planning to go to Harvard to study neuroscience and Spanish. My plans are to go to medical school and be a doctor, but not just that. I feel like I really want to be an advocate for those who are disenfranchised from what's going on in healthcare.

I just want to continue connecting people who may not feel connected to their life and their society and their community.