Samantha Sencer-Mura, a Minneapolis nonprofit leader, hopes to bring the clarity and urgency of her students to the Capitol. Credit: Jaida Grey Eagle | Sahan Journal

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Samantha Sencer-Mura easily won her election Tuesday to represent south Minneapolis in the state House. She will be the first Japanese-American to serve in the Minnesota Legislature.

Sencer-Mura, an educator and nonprofit leader, received 90 percent of the vote to represent District 63A, which includes the Longfellow, Seward, Corcoran, and Standish neighborhoods of Minneapolis. Republican Kyle Bragg received 10 percent of the vote.

In an interview before the election, she told Sahan Journal that funding education is a top priority.

“Increasing teachers of color, funding full-service community schools, making sure that special education and English language learners are being supported: those are all things that teachers are asking for—begging for,” she said. “And I think, especially with everything that schools and teachers have been through over the last few years, I think those needs really need to be centered.”

Sencer-Mura grew up attending Minneapolis Public Schools. After college, she found her footing in programming that helped young people express themselves creatively. She received a graduate degree in school leadership from Harvard University and moved back to Minneapolis to become the executive director of 826 MSP, a creative writing and tutoring nonprofit.

She hopes to bring the clarity of young people—on issues like education, climate change, and policing—to an institution where change often comes slowly (or not at all).

“It’s going to be a big shock, in many ways,” Sencer-Mura acknowledged, to go “from a place that was very open to creativity and imagination and new ideas, to a place that’s very much mired in the way it is and has always been.”

She hopes that her experience working with kids stays with her at the Capitol. 

“That’s where I think the urgency piece comes in: this feeling from young people that we are not waiting,” Sencer-Mura said. 

Becky Z. Dernbach is the education reporter for Sahan Journal. Becky graduated from Carleton College in 2008, just in time for the economy to crash. She worked many jobs before going into journalism, including...