Virginia Vitzthum receives PASEsetter Award
On February 28, 2017, Virginia Vitzthum received a PASEsetter award, which honors five exceptional afterschool educators who have given outstanding service and leadership to the youth of New York City. Sponsored by the Partnership for Afterschool Education, the awards ceremony was held at Cipriani 42.
For the past eight years, Virginia has been a mentor, writing instructor, and editor of Represent, Youth Communication’s award-winning magazine for and by youth in foster care. Virginia recruits, trains, and works closely with foster youth aged 14 to 23 on personal essays about their lives and reported stories. Through their stories, Virginia helps the young writers overcome trauma, celebrate their triumphs, and recognize their own resilience that contributes to their survival and growth. By publishing their stories, the writers provide an important and unique community service. Once in print their stories provide inspiration for peers who have suffered similar challenges.
Virginia’s role extends far beyond editor for the youth she works with. She often serves as case manager, therapist, and confidante for many of her teens, going above and beyond, often serving as the only caring adult in a young person’s life who will be there when no one can be. Virginia connects her students with legal help, pro-bono therapists, and helps them navigate the housing system. She takes them to plays, Knicks games, art openings and protests where they fight for their rights. Many of the writers, who have often bounced from home to home and school to school, think of Youth Communication as a second home and Virginia as a supportive parent – finding a place in their lives where they feel unconditionally welcomed and supported.
As one Represent writer said, “Being in the system was the hardest thing I had to overcome – 20 different placements, from home to home to home. I had to learn to survive but I didn’t do it alone. Miss Virginia was there. She was always in my corner. Every step I took she held my hands.”
Thanks to Virginia’s dedication, Represent magazine also helps thousands of readers, too. When the readers see authentic reflections of themselves, they feel less isolated, their challenges fell less daunting, and they are inspired to work for brighter futures.
During her acceptance speech, Virginia remarked, “At Represent, teens learn to love themselves and others even as they attain literacy, critical thinking, and workplace skills. It’s inspiring to be at their side as they move forward into deeper and fuller lives.”