Monday / April 22

Youth Equity Stewardship from a Student’s Perspective

When students participate in the Youth Equity Stewardship (YES) program, they not only learn how to engage with complex concepts around equity, inclusion, and excellence in constructive ways. They learn to see themselves as agents of change, and that shift in beliefs can have lasting effects on their actions, goals, and dreams for themselves and for the communities they live in.

At Addison Trail High School, part of DuPage 88 High School District in Illinois, Mateo Gomez defines Youth Equity Stewardship (YES) as a program “where diversity and inclusion are the most important factors to have astounding conversations and know that we all respect each other’s opinion and every voice will be heard.”

Mateo, a 2022 graduating senior, started his YES journey on a Zoom call during the summer of 2020 when he asked YES program sponsors if he could help with the program. The sponsors immediately said “yes,” and Mateo’s work began.

After the 2020 YES program meeting, Mateo remembers that “many senior leaders and a couple of juniors truly believed that in order to continue the legacy of the YES program and for the benefit of the student body, we needed a brand-new Student News Channel that showed [Addison Trail] students what’s going on weekly via live streams.”

Their belief came to fruition. Addison Trail, along with Willowbrook High, started and is producing its own TV show with a clear focus on equity and inclusion, highlighting stories in the school environment and out in the community. One of their recent investigative pieces was on real estate and whether certain families are being denied home loans because of their last names.

“This is the biggest reason why I am who I am today,” says Mateo. “The YES program and news channel truly opened every door for me.”

Mateo was part of a YES initiative where students lobbied for social studies and history curriculum that represents the cultural realities of DuPage 88’s students and their families.

“Addison Trail was missing a class that specifically promoted justice, impartiality, and fairness within the procedures and distribution of resources by institutions,” states Mateo. “Tackling equity issues requires an understanding of the root causes of outcome disparities within our society. As I was giving a presentation about the last Youth Equity Stewardship meeting we had, we thought about a new equity and social justice class. That is why Addison Trail student leaders like myself decided to present a new class that would benefit everyone and would give us a more insightful perspective on what equity and justice truly mean.”

Mateo and his YES team took the time to consider what should be included in the new class, looking to their teachers for guidance. The class idea was presented to teachers, drawing much interest and recognition of the missing curriculum.

“The process was extensive, and the hard work was worth the results,” he adds.

Their perseverance paid off. The new dual-credit class was added to the Addison Trail curriculum in conjunction with Elmhurst University. Mateo has high hopes for the class going forward. “I hope that this class can keep restoring ideas and discussing national issues and finding solutions that could one day help our country in a great way.”

The YES program exemplifies what America is all about: diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Empowered by his YES involvement, Mateo became a Student Council, National Honor Society, and Key Club member, to name a few. “I furthered my membership in these organizations by running for leadership positions my senior year. Now, I’m the Student Council and National Honor Society Vice President, and the Division ⅚ Lieutenant Governor of the Illinois-Eastern Iowa District for Key Club International.”

Mateo’s YES journey continues to impact him. “Benjie [Howard] and Wade [Antonio Colwell, the co-founders of YES,] are people that inspire me day by day to keep working hard for a more inclusive and equitable world,” he states. “They never stopped believing in their ideas even when the obstacles were bigger than their dreams. I have confidence in my ideas and believe that District 88 is doing a great job in making our community and the world a better place for everyone.”

The YES program is a program that will always be in Mateo’s heart and mind. “I will cherish every moment, laugh, and conversation made in the meetings I was able to be a part of,” he shares. “The YES program exemplifies what America is all about: diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

To learn more about the equity journey at DuPage High School District 88, read the full case study here. Learn more about the Youth Equity Stewardship (YES) model at

Written by

Wade Antonio Colwell is the co-founder of Youth Equity Stewardship (YES), an arts-based, experiential and inter-generational process of collectively uplifting our learning environments. His professional journey includes roles as national consultant for Deep Equity/Corwin, co-founder/producer of pioneering academic hip hop duo Funkamentalz, lead restorative practices educator with New York City’s Counseling in Schools, and curriculum specialist & founding poet laureate of Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican-American/Raza Studies Department.

Benjie Howard is the founder and executive director of New Wilderness Project, a wilderness based education program on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon. He is the co-architect of Youth Equity Stewardship (YES), an arts based inter-generational process preparing youth to be full partners in the work of school transformation. Benjie is the managing Deep Equity consultant with Corwin. 

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