School Views: Inspiring students to be change agents |

School Views: Inspiring students to be change agents

Mary Ann Stavney
Eagle County Schools

Eagle County Schools is home to a diverse study body, full of curious, hopeful learners. They represent the community-oriented, adventure-driven families that choose to make Eagle County their home. Whether a family’s passion lives in the backcountry or a 4-H barn, on the ski slopes or athletic fields, our love of the outdoors and commitment to our families and neighbors are some of the things we share.

As an educator and a parent, I continue to be inspired and motivated by our students. While adults may struggle to relate to one another across their differences, our youth are often more comfortable with taking the risks necessary to get to know someone new. Our differences are what make our community so rich, and it’s in understanding and appreciating these differences that we all grow as individuals.

Our partnership with educators Benjie Howard and Wade Colwell as part of our district-wide Deep Equity work has built an Eagle County Schools Youth Equity Stewardship Team to help students find their voice and bridge their differences.

Our YES Team prepares middle and high school students, along with adult advocates, from across our district, to be powerful change agents in building inclusive, inspired school climates. In our first year of YES work, 80 students and 20 educators have gathered for three days of learning in September, November, and January to shift the tone and depth of youth and adult conversations as well as improve the climate of inclusion for students. 

Here’s a video sharing the experiences of some of our students involved in this work.

Howard and Colwell are guiding this process through music, art, and activities that provide opportunities for students and adults across the district to explore their personal culture and journey. Our students are thinkers and creators that want to have a voice in their schools and community. 

Up until puberty, most cultural beliefs are transferred vertically from parent to child. During and after puberty, this transfer of beliefs becomes horizontal from peer-to-peer. By empowering our participating students, they can share how they’re seeing things differently through normal conversations with their friends. This is the process of the youth being the stewards of equity in their schools. It happens through conversations.

We invite you to learn more about how our Youth Equity Stewardship Team is providing opportunities for students to find their voice and bridge differences in their schools. 

Please join us Wednesday, March 18, from 5:30-8 p.m. at Berry Creek Middle School for a ListenUp! event and dinner. It will be an evening of food, music, art, and expression about our journey as a school community. Come hear what our incredible students have to share with you.

Mary Ann Stavney is the learning and instruction specialist for Eagle County Schools. Contact her at

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