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Who We Are
Youth Communication helps marginalized youth develop their full potential through reading and writing, so that they can succeed in school and at work and contribute to their communities. [more]
Our Magazines
YCteen (teen magazine)
Represent
(foster teen magazine)
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A Brief History of Youth Communication
30 Years of Supporting Teens and Teachers
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Helping Teens Read, Write, and Succeed
High-Quality Writing that Appeals to Reluctant Readers
Supporting Teachers and Other Professionals
Reaching Millions of Readers
The Ripple Effect of Our Alumni
An Award-Winning Program
Evaluation to Assess Reader Impact & Improve Content
The Mission Going Forward

NYC Magazine

Helping Teens Read, Write, and Succeed
Youth Communication creates short, engaging, nonfiction stories that appeal to hard-to-reach teens. Teachers and other adults who work with teens use the stories and related lessons to help students improve their reading and writing skills and the social and emotional skills that are essential for college and career success.


Youth Communication was founded in 1980, in response to a Robert F. Kennedy Memorial study found that school newspapers excluded poor, minority, and lower academic track students from their reporting staffs and did not publish stories about their concerns.

One of the study’s proposals was to start independent citywide teen magazines with an explicit goal of recruiting diverse reporting staffs and providing vigorous, contemporary content to teen readers. Youth Communication’s first project was New Youth Connections (NYC), an independent magazine for New York City teens. In 2011, the magazine was renamed YCteen.

Youth Communication has remained true to its original mission of training a diverse teen writing staff to provide content with special relevance and appeal to marginalized youth. It has also evolved to reach audiences through the web, books, and curricula. It is still led today by its founding director, Keith Hefner, who won MacArthur and Revson Fellowships for his work with the program. The New York Times contributes its printing

Edwidge Danticat
“A year after I started high school, I began to write for New Youth Connections. It was extremely gratifying to see my words in print, to observe my classmates who knew nothing about me or my culture come to understand a very important aspect of my life through something I had written.”
–Edwidge Danticat, alumna writer, National Book Award finalist and MacArthur Fellow

High-Quality Writing that Appeals to Reluctant Readers
From its first issue in May 1980, NYC was an immediate hit with teen readers and their teachers. Within three years it reached a circulation of 70,000 copies—distributed by more than 1,000 teachers. The model of having full-time professional adult editors train teens to produce serious magazines has also remained constant. So has the rigorous writing program, which is designed to produce engaging, informative, and educational stories. The typical story goes through 10 drafts before it is accepted for publication.

Represent writer
NYC writer
NYC writer
Represent writer

To insure that stories would meet the needs of marginalized youth, teen writers are recruited primarily from New York City’s most distressed schools and neighborhoods, including many teens from alternative high schools, foster care agencies, and schools for recent immigrants.

“Foster care is like being in a room full of darkness. You’re always looking for that little crack of light which explains why you’re in this situation. Represent is that light for youth in care.”
–Antwaun Garcia, alumnus writer
NYC Magazine

A Magazine for Youth in Foster Care—In 1993, in response to the crack epidemic that briefly tripled New York City’s foster care population to 50,000 children, Youth Communication launched Represent: The Voice of Youth in Foster Care. Full-time adult editors lead this quarterly magazine, which has a national circulation of 10,000.

The great strength of Youth Communication’s stories is that they are written by teens who have the same experiences as their readers. The writers know what information their peers need to overcome obstacles and make thoughtful choices. Their stories address timely and timeless issues. For example, during the 1980s, the writers produced special issues on AIDS and the crack epidemic. During the 1990s, many stories focused on violent crime, the influx of immigrants, and racial tensions. Perennial topics include parents and family, work, identity, the environment, neighborhoods, education, sexuality and teen pregnancy, and gangs.

The teens write in a variety of genres—reported stories, personal essays, opinion pieces, reviews, and more. That provides many “points of entry” for readers, increasing the chances that many teens will get maximum benefit from the stories.

“Real Stories continues to be helpful in my work as a child and family therapist.  One young woman was amazed as she related to the story she read, saying, ‘This is me!’ She really seemed to get a sense of hope from it."
–Katy Weiks, Adrian, MI

Supporting Teachers and Other Professionals
The most frequent comment Youth Communication hears from teachers—from the beginning of the program to the present—is, “Teens who won’t read anything else ask for Youth Communication stories.” Soon after NYC’s founding, teachers began using the stories in English classes, health classes, counseling groups, and classes for English language learners.

In response, Youth Communication expanded its two-page teacher guides to 12 pages or more. In the mid-1990s, Youth Communication began publishing anthologies of its best stories. Teachers reported that the books were well-suited to the classroom and allowed them to use the stories semester after semester. We began providing even more teacher support—everything from “Think About It” questions to accompany individual stories, to 300-page leader’s guides with detailed lessons on how to use the stories to strengthen social and emotional skills, improve work readiness, and enhance reading and writing skills.

In 2001 we published The Struggle to Be Strong, a curriculum on resilience, which has become our best-selling book with more than 50,000 copies in print.

The Struggle to Be Strong

"I introduced The Struggle to Be Strong to a class of ninth graders who hated to read. I put Struggle on the desks. As the students straggled in before the bell rang, I waited in the hallway greeting them. When the bell rang, I entered the classroom, ready to tell them to get in their seats and get serious. But they were silent! Their noses were buried in their books! It is definitely the single greatest moment in my teaching career!" 
–Abbey Schneider, Silver Spring HS, Maryland


Real Men Anthology
We also began providing professional development for teachers and other staff during the mid-1990s. We worked with the Teachers College Writing Program, the American Social History Project, and other groups to help New York City high schools develop more student-centered instruction. We trained dozens of organizations in the 2000s to use our Real Jobs, Real Men, and Real Stories programs in after school programs and advisories.


"The reality (and grittiness) of your resources catch my students’ attention, and have given us take-off points for discussions. Reading the stories has also brought me closer to my students and some of their life situations outside of school. The essays also provide writing models and inspiration.”
Elise B., 9th grade teacher, Central Valley, NY

Reaching Millions of Readers
In the 1990s we also began licensing our stories for inclusion in curricula produced by other publishers. The Write Source, the Norton Sampler, Educators for Social Responsibility, the Success Foundation, the Harvard Educational Review, and many other publishers included our stories in their books and curricula.

Write Source

Licensing enabled us to reach tens of thousands of more teachers who worked with millions of teens nationwide. In the 2000s, we began to create customized curricula, websites, and other products built around our teen-written content. In recent years we developed a guide on what makes a good teacher—from the students’ perspective—for the College Board; a website for teens in foster care for New York City’s child welfare agency; and a summer writing program for teens at the Harlem Children’s Zone. Today, Youth Communication stories are available in more than 100 anthologies and curricula published under our own imprint and by more than a dozen other companies.

“Youth Communication made me and my words feel big and important at a time in my life when I mostly felt small and scared."
–Gina Trapani, alumna writer

The Ripple Effect of Our Alumni
Many teens who were trained at Youth Communication have gone on to make important contributions themselves as writers, teachers, social workers, foundation executives, and policy makers. Alumni authors and journalists have published more than 50 books and written for major publications. They include Edwidge Danticat, who won a MacArthur Fellowship for her writing, and Rachel Swarns and Mohamad Bazzi, who became foreign bureau chiefs at The New York Times and Newsday, respectively. Ms. Swarns now covers the First Lady for The Times.

Many alumni report in annual surveys that Youth Communication helped them improve their writing skills and do better in school, and had an important effect on shaping their career choices and their sense of possibility.

An Award-Winning Program
Youth Communication has won most of the major awards in educational publishing in the secondary school category, competing against adult-written publications from Scholastic, Time Inc. and other major publishing companies. At various times the Educational Publishing Association has awarded YCteen and Represent awards for periodical of the year, best series, and best single issue. Represent won the Golden Lamp, for best overall educational product in any category. Three Youth Communication programs have been named best curriculum in the Life Skills and Character Education category.

Youth Communication won a Coming Up Taller award from the National Councils on the Arts and the Humanities, given to 10 of the country’s best teen arts and humanities programs each year. Youth Communication’s book on resilience won Parents Guide and Parents Choice awards.

In addition to the MacArthur Fellowship won by Executive Director Keith Hefner, five Youth Communication staff members won coveted Revson Fellowships on the Future of New York City at Columbia University while working here. Editor Kendra Hurley won a 2004 PASEsetter Award as one of the five best after school staff in New York City.

Evaluation to Assess Reader Impact & Improve Content
Youth Communication uses more than two dozen evaluation measures. They include ongoing assessment of student drafts and portfolios to annual reader surveys to teaching our stories and testing lessons in schools and after school programs.

According to 30 years of surveys of teens and teachers the most important impact of Youth Communication’s work on teen readers is that it gives teens a voice, makes them feel less alone, helps them understand others and empathize with their struggles, and makes them feel more optimistic about the future. About 30 percent of teens who return the surveys also specify behavioral changes they have made as a result of reading the stories, such as delaying sex or talking with an adult about a problem. More than 90 percent of teachers consistently rate the magazines good or excellent for overall quality. A large percentage of teachers and other adult staff also report that reading the teens’ stories helps them better understand teen lives and concerns, which helps them be more effective in their jobs.

"55% of teen readers report: I felt more confident that I could succeed in high school or college after reading New Youth Connections magazine."
–2010 reader survey

The Mission Going Forward
More than 30 years after its founding, Youth Communication’s uniquely rigorous writing program continues to provide high-quality stories that offer important information to teens and that teachers use to engage students and help them improve their skills. The young writers are still teens who face many of the same struggles as their peers. They have the insight needed to write stories that will help peers who face similar challenges.

Today, however, the 80,000 teens who read Youth Communication stories in the print magazines are just a fraction of the total readership. Far more teens (and adults) read the stories on the web and in the hundreds of anthologies, textbooks, and other places where the stories are regularly reprinted. Finding new ways to reach those audiences, and to support the educators who work with them, is Youth Communication’s most exciting challenge going forward.

"Youth Communication has created publications whose authenticity and appeal to teenagers are immediate and undeniable. This is work worth reading and supporting."
–Ric Burns, documentary filmmaker

Our work is grounded in the belief that reading and writing remain the best ways to encourage reflection and discussion and stimulate the imagination. Literate, thoughtful citizens are essential to the survival of a vibrant, democratic society.


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