YCA’s Youth Ambassador Cohort (YAC) is an ambassador program where a group of young people between the ages of 18-23 have the opportunity to make a positive impact in their community while building their creative skill sets to contribute to YCA’s mission of empowering young people to create equitable futures in artistic spaces. YAC members will have access to artistic opportunities such as performing, publishing work, and creating portfolios. YAC members will support youth outreach efforts and gain valuable skills such as how to table events, collaborate on projects, be youth advocates in their communities, and will become certified ambassadors by the end of their cohort.

Please email Jessica Mascarenhas for more information.



Diana Gomez (she/her/ella) is a Mexican artist and poet. Her body of work speaks on her experience growing up as a queer Mexican immigrant in the U.S. Her collection of mixed media paintings, (Corazón Hecho En Casa), was featured in the Identity Borne gallery. During her high school career, she was awarded The Jean Baptiste Pont DuSable award and The 2023 Scholastic Gold and Silver Key for her poetry. She works for multiple nonprofits in Chicago and leads workshops for Culture Shock. She is a second year member of YCA’s Youth Ambassador Cohort and an alumni of the Roots Crew internship. Following her wrap on her apprenticeship as a tattoo artist, Diana is looking forward to creating magical work and sharing it with the world.

Cortez Stewart, aka “Bigg Ceno,” is a son of Chicago’s Southside. After graduating from Ashburn Elementary, he attended John Hancock College Prep where he won the annual talent show and competed in Louder Than A Bomb and Rooted & Radical. Cortez was featured in The Chicago Sun times for starting his school’s Black Student Union and addressing racial insensitivity within CPS. After graduating high school in 2021,and having his poetry published by outlets such Southside Weekly and The Chicago Sun Times, he was hired by several writing/ entertainment organizations and companies to perform all over Chicago including Lollapalooza, The Chicago Peace Festival, The Silverroom Block Party, and more.

Ahnika Franklin aka Neek the Poetry (she/they) is a multidisciplinary poet and educator originating from the East side. Having participated in Louder than a Bomb, Neek discovered their voice as a black queer individual through poetry, leading them to blossom into the local transcendental flower child. Neek is a visionary delving into the depths of the human experience through their own “out-of-body” nature. Their poetry meets at the many intersections of love, spirituality, and nature. Neek showcased their talents as a featured guest at Wordplay in 2021.

Jalen Sharp, aka Jsteezzy, is a Chicago born artist who oozes the idealism of true artistry. South side raised, Jalen’s rough upbringing inspires his relentless pursuit to not only be creative, but to share his creativity with those before/after him. Since 2018, Jsteezzy has been on a dream defying mission, to share with the world his every vision. During this time he’s performed across many different arenas, such as Louder Than a Bomb, Oak Park Festival, numerous Juneteenth Festivals, and Chicago staples such as The Metro and Subterranean.

Jonas Collins is a seasoned hip-hop producer and poet with four years of immersive experience crafting music and collaborating with diverse artists throughout Minneapolis and Chicago. Hailing from Minneapolis, Jonas has cultivated a distinctive signature sound, honed through the crucible of experimentation, giving his production techniques an authentically original flair and unmatched style. Beyond his musical endeavors, Jonas actively engages with the community through his work with the YCA, aspiring to open music creation for all and continually redefine the boundaries of music production.