From: Penn News
Media Contact:Jacquie Posey | firstname.lastname@example.org | November 18, 2014
Katherine Mateo is a leader and mentor with a passion to make the world a better place. The senior who entered the University of Pennsylvania three years ago as a Benjamin Franklin Scholar and Civic Scholar is director of Global Youth United, a Philadelphia-based organization that helps high school-age students identify social problems in the world and develop strategic plans to address them.
Mateo was a 16-year-old student at Central High School when she founded GYU after meeting Leonard Finkelstein, a retired Philadelphia educator and alum who was at the school for a presentation.
“He asked me what I thought the 10 big problems of the world were,” she recalls. “Then he asked me what I could do about them that day.”
Mateo walked away from that conversation with the idea for GYU.
She co-developed the organizational business plan and worked to obtain 501(c)(3) tax exemption status for GYU. The nonprofit currently has organizational partnerships with five high schools and is expanding to three universities. Mateo has worked with two staff members, more than 30 university mentors and seven high school chapters of GYU with 10–24 students each.
When she started GYU, Mateo and her peers helped raise funds for victims of the tsunami and earthquake in Japan and earthquake in Haiti. GYU also runs a campaign to benefit women in Third World countries. Today, students in GYU have worked strategically to increase the housing capacity of a shelter for veterans and have organized to restore budget cuts to Philadelphia public high schools.
When Mateo came to Penn in 2011, she helped launch Penn-GYU, the organization’s first university chapter. Each year, 15-20 Penn students mentor students at five Philadelphia public high schools to create and implement projects of social change using a “social change” curriculum that Mateo wrote.
Penn’s GYU chapter educates high school students in the Philadelphia community about politics and social justice through peer education, organized community service projects and social entrepreneurship.
Mateo's social entrepreneur endeavors began years before she founded GYU. She produced a documentary about the high school dropout rate in the Latino community as a seventh grader. Studies show that half of Latino boys fail to graduate from high school in the Philadelphia School District.
As a Latina at Penn, Mateo became actively involved in a broad spectrum of Penn student groups working to improve conditions for underrepresented groups at the University.
The political science major in Penn’s School of Arts & Sciences says, “I thought then and continue to think today that government is the way to impact the greatest amount of people in the most direct way.”
Mateo learned about the Latino population’s changing demographics in the United States and the implications of having a systemically undereducated and politically under-engaged population.
“That led me to apply to the Latino Ivy League Conference as part of the Penn delegation that fall, where I learned what students were doing on their own campuses to address a microcosm of the national issues the guest speaker had highlighted,” Mateo says.
She was also elected vice chair of the Latino/a Coalition, (formerly the Latino Coalition.) The group is comprised of 19 campus organizations with various missions. The Coalition Executive board promotes and advances the agenda of Latino students at Penn through collaboration with University administrators.
“My work with 5Boards has been one of my most rewarding experiences within and outside of Penn,” Mateo says. “Focus during my term has been on increasing faculty diversity in the departments which show the lowest rates of diversity and an initiative I’ve begun to address low income and first-generation student affairs.”
Mateo is closing out her senior year preparing a capstone on the principles of social entrepreneurship and writing a political science honors thesis on affirmative action led by Mahatma Gandhi’s words that have become a guiding principle in her life: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
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