As Blazers adapt to synchronous remote learning this fall, members of the Youth Equity and Stewardship (YES) Program have created a news channel to help students remain engaged and connected.
YES is a program that gives students opportunities to use their leadership skills to promote diversity and raise student awareness about issues in their school, their community, and the world. They do so under the motto, “We’re not above you. We’re not below you. We’re right with you.”
“Not only has this program helped me develop leadership skills, but I have also had the opportunity to learn about other cultures,” shared senior Jina Patel, who has been part of the program for 3 years. “At several training sessions, we have discussed social issues that are present today, and we are constantly working to create a more aware and more respectful environment in our school and community,” she added.
Students are selected to participate in YES by Addison Trail teachers and staff members. According to senior Cristal Moreno Agular, who was nominated during her freshman year, “Staff members are looking for students who will be good leaders in their community.”
Normally, the students involved in YES spend time interacting with students from other schools. “We usually meet a couple times throughout the year with Willowbrook and talk about how we can make our schools better and what we can change around the school,” said Moreno Agular.
The YES students have worked hard this past summer on finding new ways to discuss issues with students in a virtual school environment.
“We got the opportunity to be in 5 summer meetings with the people who run the YES program in the USA. Those meetings were powerful. We discussed issues such as Black Lives Matter and Climate Change” said Mateo Gómez, a junior member of YES. “Not only do these students work during the school year, but they worked a lot over the summer to dive into these deep issues and try to bring awareness of the issues to Addison Trail High School” added Christina Trapani, one of YES’s sponsors.
This fall, the YES program decided to start a news channel to keep Blazers engaged. Senior YES member Mia Johnson said, “YES started a news channel because we thought it would be a great way to communicate with students and a great way to give announcements and useful information to students throughout these unprecedented times.”
Johnson was one of the YES students who came up with the idea of a news channel. She said, “I played a role in starting the news channel by piggybacking off of an idea from a Willowbrook student in a YES meeting and taking my idea of the AT News Channel to Mr. Bolden. He loved the idea so it was relatively easy to get the ball rolling and we had his full support throughout the entire process of starting it up.”
Every student plays a unique role in putting together episodes, but they are all able to work together to make sure the episodes include a diverse range of topics.
“I am the news anchor, meaning I deliver all the announcements with my co-anchor, Mateo. We receive emails from teachers who want to have an announcement out for their club, sport, or scholarship, and we record a video and send the videos to our editor, who makes the videos,” said Johnson.
“The news channel is a highly collaborative work environment where all individuals are allowed to express their own style and personality through videos and commentary. Every student involved in YES can choose whether or not they want to participate in a certain segment,” said Junior YES member Iman Naseeruddin. “Something I fancy in the news channel is to produce and design informational videos for our underclassmen,” she added.
As the school year continues, YES will continue to adapt their news segments to meet the needs and desires of the student body.
“The first couple of weeks were more logistical, teaching students how to use Remind and Google Classroom, and now we are starting to get into some touchy topics such as Black Lives Matter,” explained Rob Schader, another YES sponsor.
“We take information from social media and take into account what students want from their news channel. Students will email the news channel with ideas and YES members suggest things that we are personally connected with,” added Moreno Agular.
Even if Addison Trail reverts back to a normal in-person learning environment in the future, YES plans on continuing to create episodes for Blazer News. “We still plan on making videos and playing them during ATRs so that students will continue to hear school announcements directly from other students,” said Moreno Agular.
When asked about his hopes for the future of the YES program, Schader said “I’d like to see the format stay the same, and I’m hoping that the news channel continues to grow. There’s been a ton of positive feedback so far and the kids are doing an amazing job voicing what they believe in and standing up for what they believe is right.”
Trapani added, “I’m hoping that the students can take what they’ve learned in the YES program about being an upstander and confronting people appropriately to create a better environment in the community and hopefully the world.”