About Us


Our Mission is to
help staff engage
teens in social
& emotional

           Youth Communication equips and empowers educators and youth workers with real teen-written stories and a literacy-rich training model to engage struggling youth and build their social and emotional learning skills.

Our stories, developed in a rigorous writing program, are uniquely compelling to youth whose voices are missing from mainstream content. The stories model social and emotional learning, and show teens how to make positive changes in their lives. They also motivate teens to read and write.

Our award-winning curricula and professional development are created around these stories. They turn classrooms and programs into dynamic and encouraging learning environments by helping educators and youth workers become more compassionate and effective at building the skills that struggling teens need to lead successful, meaningful lives.

Our Team

Keith Hefner
Executive Director

Keith Hefner founded Youth Communication in 1980. He won a MacArthur Fellowship in 1989, and he was a 1986-87 Charles H. Revson Fellow on the Future of New York City at Columbia University. He is a 2004 graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Business, Institute for Non-Profit Management, Executive Level Program. In 1997 he received the Luther P. Jackson Award for Educational Excellence from the New York Association of Black Journalists. He is the executive editor or co-author of several dozen Youth Communication books and programs, including Real Men and The Teen Guide to Sex (without regrets).

Elena Autin-Hefner
External Relations Associate

Elena Autin-Hefner graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in Film and Television. She previously worked in New Media at the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network where she produced digital campaigns on cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and other special needs affecting children. 

Tom Brown
Administrative Director

Prior to joining Youth Communication in March, 1989, Tom Brown worked for several years at the DOME Project, a community based youth development program where he was assistant director. He has a BA in Political Science from the City College of New York and an MA in that subject from Yale.

Loretta Chan
Marketing Director

Loretta was a teen writer at New Youth Connections (now YCteen) from 1992 to 1995. Prior to returning to Youth Communication in 2006, she worked as an editor for Longitude Books, education program associate for The New York Council for the Humanities and paralegal for Cravath, Swaine & Moore and The Port Authority of New York/New Jersey. She has a BA in Art History from New York University. She is the co-editor of Youth Communication’s book Strong Teens, Strong Neighborhoods.

Betsy Cohen
Deputy Director

Betsy Cohen has a BA in Comparative Literature and Women’s Studies from Emory University, and a Masters in Theological Studies from Harvard University. Prior to joining Youth Communication, she served as the Director of Development at the Center for Supportive Schools, Development Associate at Success Academy Charter Schools, and as a Grants and Funding Researcher at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. She also taught conversational English at a public high school in Sèvres, France.

David Heller
Education Director

David holds a Bachelor of Arts in Government from Franklin & Marshall College, and two Master’s Degrees, one from George Washington (Philosophy) and one from Bard College (Teaching). After gaining his teaching degree, David taught English and history at high schools in California’s Central Valley and Bay Area, before returning home to New York, where he taught at a school in Poughkeepsie. He was also a boys and girls soccer coach at these schools. He then moved outside of the classroom and worked for the NYC Dept. of Youth and Community Development, where he supported community-based organizations across the city with implementing high-quality activities in their after school programs. As YC’s Education Director, David seeks to develop highly engaging and relevant curricula to accompany the YC stories, and facilitate active and participatory trainings that empower youth workers and educators who will be using these stories with their own youth. 

Laura Longhine

Laura Longhine has a BA in English from Tufts University and an MS in Journalism from Columbia. She is a 2008 graduate of Columbia University Business School’s Institute for Non-Profit Management’s Middle Management Program for Youth Service Organizations. Before joining Youth Communication she taught English as a Second Language as an AmeriCorps Volunteer in California, and was a staff writer at the Free Times, an alternative weekly in South Carolina. She has freelanced for The New York Times, newyorkmetro.com and Legal Affairs, among other publications. Laura was the editor of Represent magazine from 2005 to 2009. She is the editor of more than a dozen Youth Communication books on topics including juvenile justice, sexuality, domestic violence, work readiness, and more.

Joanne Pendola
Image Editor

Joanne Pendola is an illustrator/painter/photographer whose work has appeared in Atlantic Monthly, Ms., and other major publications. Her paintings can be found in private homes around the world. After living in New York City for over 25 years, she has relocated to her home state of RI and is currently working on several diverse projects. Joanne holds a BFA in Illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design. She has been with Youth Communication since 1997.

Efrain Reyes
Director of Production & IT

Efrain Reyes was a student artist (1982-84) for New Youth Connections (now YCteen) while attending Morris HS in the South Bronx. He later graduated from Pratt Institute with a BA in Communication Design and in 1988 was hired to run our desktop publishing operation and to handle bookkeeping. He has since taken charge of many other tasks, including: IT, installing and maintaining our 40+ computer network; Web development and design for our various sites; in-house photographer and art director: photographing and/or designing many of our magazine and book covers.

Autumn Spanne
Summer Workshop Story Editor

Autumn Spanne was the editor of Represent from 2007 to 2011 and YCteen from 2011 to 2013. She continues to work with Youth Communication as a co-facilitator of the summer writing workshop. Autumn holds an MS from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and an MA in education from Western New Mexico University. She now writes regularly about science and the environment for The Guardian and mental_floss and has been featured in National Geographic News, Scientific American, the Christian Science Monitor and The Daily Climate. Autumn is a 2016-2017 recipient of the Scripps Fellowship in Environmental Reporting at the University of Colorado.

Holly St. Lifer
Editorial Director, YCteen

Holly St. Lifer has reported on health and fitness for Runner’s World, goodhousekeeping.com, AARP, Shape, Self, Prevention, Psychology Today, and AOL Health. She began her career as a television producer; her work has appeared on ESPN, USA Networks, MTV, VH1 and Lifetime. She holds a BFA in Film and Television from New York University where she teaches journalism. In 2017, she launched ZINE, a magazine written by and for refugees living on the Greek island of Leros. She has been an editor at Youth Communication since 2013.

Karen Torbjornsen
Education Trainer

Karen Torbjornsen has worked closely with diverse populations of youth for over fifteen years.  She was the co-founder of Riotous Youth, a theatre ensemble for young actors at Shakespeare & Company. She has also worked as a theatre director for teen actors, and as a coach and counselor for elementary, middle, high school and GED students in both traditional school and transitional housing settings.  As part of a NYC DOE Professional Development series for teachers, administrators, guidance staff, parents and students, Karen created and facilitated workshops around self-care, crisis management and skills for psychological recovery.  Combining training in group work (including Restorative Practice) with experience in the expressive arts, her work empowers people to develop their innate resiliency and strength.   Building a sense of community and support among participants is the hallmark of what she does best, and she is especially passionate about making lasting connections between people.

Virginia Vitzthum
Editor & Program Manager, Represent

Virginia Vitzthum has written for publications including Elle, the Village Voice, washingtonpost.com, AlterNet.org, Time Out New York, Ms., and salon.com, where she was a columnist. She is the author of a book about Internet dating, I Love You, Let’s Meet, and a contributor to Beautiful Trouble, a book on creative activism. She was managing editor of a book series on substance abuse treatment and has edited many other publications. She has a BA in English from the University of Maryland. She has been an editor at Youth Communication since 2008 and edited YC’s books on drugs, disabilities, sexuality, and other topics.

Susie Armitage

Susie Armitage has a BA in English from Oberlin College and a master’s degree in international reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has written for BuzzFeed, the Christian Science Monitor, The Forward, Columbia Journalism Review and other publications, and her audio reporting has aired on NPR. Prior to joining Youth Communication, she was the Global Managing Editor at BuzzFeed, where she supported the company’s editorial expansion in 10 countries outside the US and edited personal essays by writers in India, France and Spain. She was a 2017 recipient of the US-Japan Journalism Fellowship, awarded by the Japan Center for International Exchange.


Before pursuing a media career, Susie worked on youth development programs in Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. She also taught English to adult second-language learners in Washington, DC and to middle and high school students as a Peace Corps Volunteer in southern Ukraine.

Board members

Leah Modigliani


Leah Modigliani is a senior investment associate at Bridgewater Associates. Prior to working at her own firm, Leah was senior vice president at Neuberger Berman serving as the firm’s multi-asset class strategist in the Portfolio Solutions Group. Before joining Neuberger Berman, Leah spent was the executive director and US strategist in the Research Department of Morgan Stanley where she was an Executive Director and US Strategist in the Research Department, and a portfolio manager in the Asset Management Division.

Leah Modigliani


Duffie Cohen

Vice President

Duffie Cohen is executive director of the Invest in CUNY Campaign office at the City University of New York. She has extensive experience working in higher education and non-profit organizations. Earlier in her career, she has worked as a journalist and was an editor of Youth Communication’s award-winning teen written magazines, YCteen and Represent: The Voice of Youth in Foster Care from 1993 to 1995.

Duffie Cohen

Vice President

William Josephson


William Josephson is a retired partner at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shiver and Jacobson where he practiced for 33 years. He has served as assistant attorney general-in- charge of the New York State Law Department’s Charities Bureau, general counsel to the Peace Corps, special assistant to the director of the Peace Corps, and Far East Regional Counsel to the International Cooperation Administration (subsequently the Agency for International Development) in the United States Department of State. Mr. Josephson is the president of the Peace Corps Institute and has been a member of the New York State Historical Advisory Board and a trustee of the New York State Archives Partnership Trust.

William Josephson


Pilar Conde


Pilar Conde, a private investor, was previously a member of the Executive Committee at JPMorgan & Co. Inc., and trading as head of its Proprietary Positioning Business. During her twenty-two years at JPMorgan, Ms. Conde set up, developed and managed several ventures: Treasury and Markets (Madrid), Foreign Investment Portfolios, Cross Markets Proprietary Trading, the Relative Value Group, and the Proprietary Positioning Business. She was chair of the Diversity Steering Committee and Chair of the Senior Women’s Forum.

Pilar Conde


Angelina Darrisaw


Angelina Darrisaw is the founder of C-Suite Coach. She is also the former senior manager of Digital Business Development at Viacom and was selected to serve as a national My Black Is Beautiful and Pantene Pro-V brand ambassador. Angelina was a teen writer at New Youth Connections (now YCteen) in 2002.

Angelina Darrisaw


Doris Gonzalez


Doris Gonzalez is director of Corporate Citizenship at IBM Corporation. Before joining IBM, Doris had a 14-year career in New York City’s public sector as Deputy Executive Director for Public Affairs at the NYC public schools; Director of Government and Community Relations at the New York City School Construction Authority; and Assistant Press Secretary at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Doris Gonzalez


Janet Kelley


Janet Kelley is principal of The Kelley Collaborative and staff coordinator of the New York City Youth Funders. She consults with the Sally and Dick Roberts Coyote Foundation in Los Angeles, California. Ms. Kelley was the founding executive director of the Partnership for After School Education (PASE), served as executive director of Project Reach Youth (PRY), and directed Call for Action, and led career services for the Court Employment Project (now CASES). She is an active member of the Steering Committee/Board of Directors of the New York State Afterschool Network (NYSAN).

Janet Kelley


Advisory Board

Edna McConnell Clark Foundation (ret.)

Marshall Project




Office of the New York State Attorney General




Ford Foundation (ret.)


More than 2,500 teens have participated in Youth Communication’s writing programs. Some have achieved “brand name” success: they include a U.S. Supreme Court clerk, a MacArthur Fellow, and one of the most highly acclaimed choreographers in the country. Most alumni have gone to college—often as the first in their family to do so. They have also published more than 70 books as adult writers.

But what really characterizes our alumni is their spirit of community service. By writing for Youth Communication, they learned that their stories could have an immediate impact—helping their peers get into college, avoid STDs, find a job, cope with trauma, and more.

That experience has had a powerful effect on Youth Communication’s teen writers. Many have since gone on to careers that continue the community service work they began at Youth Communication—as teachers, college professors, social workers, Americorps and Peace Corps volunteers, foundation officers, doctors and nurses, clergy, police officers, and community activists.

The following thumbnail profiles of a handful of the alumni show the diversity and significance of their achievements. 

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Lourdes Rosado

Lourdes, ’81, helped start Youth Communication in 1980. After graduating from Swarthmore College, she was an editor at Newsweek before attending Columbia University’s School of

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Edwidge Danticat

Edwidge, ’86, is an acclaimed writer of novels, nonfiction, and books for young adults. Her second book, Krik? Krak!, was a finalist for a National

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Rachel Swarns

Rachel L. Swarns ’84 served as managing editor of Youth Communication’s YCteen magazine, where she published more than a dozen stories while she was a

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Shawn Dove

Shawn, ’80, wrote for the very first Youth Communication publication in March of 1980. He has a degree in English from Wesleyan University and received

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Veronica Chambers

Veronica Chambers, ’89, is the author of over a dozen books and is best known for her critically acclaimed memoir, Mama’s Girl which has been adopted by

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Lisa Denerstein

Lisa, ’88, was a New York City Teaching Fellow and is a high school teacher in the city. She has also worked at various film,

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Sheila Maldonado

Sheila, ’91, is the author of one-bedroom solo (Fly by Night Press, 2011), her debut poetry collection.Her poems have appeared in Rattapallax, Callaloo and Me

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David Miranda

David, ’93, is a senior staff attorney at the Urban Justice Center, Peter Cicchino Youth Project. He has also worked as a staff attorney at

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Gina Trapani

Gina, ’93, is the founder of the hugely popular lifehacker.com. Gina is the also the founder and creator of Makerbase, an IMDb for web sites

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Ferentz LaFargue

Ferentz, ’94, is Director of the Center for Cultural Engagement at the Catholic University of America (CUA).   Prior to arriving at Catholic, he was Director

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Victoria Law

Victoria, ’95, She is the author of Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women, which won the 2009 PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society)

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Sharon Feder

Sharon, ’02, is the Chief Digital Officer of Rachael Ray’s parent company Watch Entertainment and was the publisher of www.mashable.com.  She works as advisor to

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Danny Gong

Danny, ’98, teaches American Sign Language in Japan. He has a BA in dramatic writing from SUNY Purchase and a certificate in American Sign Language

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Pauline Gordon

Pauline, ’06, received her masters degree in social work from Fordham University. She has worked as an advocate for youth in foster care in organizations

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Orubba Almansouri

Orubba, ’09, was named salutatorian of her class at the City College of New York-CUNY, where she earned double BA degrees in English and history. 

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Melvin Pichardo

Melvin, ’14, graduated from and received a two-year scholarship to attend Stella Adler Studio of Acting. His story, Tough Guise, was chosen for Teaching Tolerance





Youth Communication is committed to transparency. Below you will find our audited financial statements and IRS Form 990 for the past three years.

Audited Financial StatementsIRS Form 990
Fiscal Year 2015-2016Filing year 2015
Fiscal Year 2014-2015Filing year 2014
Fiscal Year 2013-2014Filing year 2013








Golden Lamp Award | Best Periodical | Association of American Publishers (2015)


First Prize | Editorial/Commentary | Center for Community and Ethnic Media (2012)

“Scam U.” by Marco Salazar

Best Curriculum | Life Skills and Character Education | Association of American Publishers (2011)

Real Men

Best in Youth Media | Media for a Just Society (2015)

"My Looking-Glass Self" by Marlo Scott


Andrus Family Fund
Barsky Family Foundation
Bay and Paul Foundations
Beacon Group
Charles Hayden Foundation
Charles L. K. and Clara Miller Foundation
Child Welfare Fund
College Board
Donna and Marvin Schwartz Foundation
Ernest Rubenstein Fund
Fishel Daly Family Foundation
Florence Burden Foundation
Foundation for Justice Through Education
Frieda C. Fox Family Foundation
H. van Ameringen Foundation
Huo Family Foundation
Hyde and Watson Foundation
IBM Corporation

Ira W. De Camp Foundation
James Fishel Estate
Kenworthy-Swift Foundation
Leroy and Ann Warner Fund
Loews Corporation
M&T Bank
Mailman Foundation
Mary Hutchins Foundation
M and T Weiner Foundation
M. Klebanoff Foundation
Metzger-Price Fund
Mnuchin Foundation
Neuberger Berman Foundation
New Yorkers for Children
NYC Administration for Children's Services
NYC Councilman Corey Johnson
NYC Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene
NYC Dept. of Youth & Community Development
New York Life Foundation

NYS Office of Children and Family Services
Penguin Random House
Pinkerton Foundation
Poses Family Foundation
Redlich Horwitz Foundation
Richard Smith Fund
Robert Bowne Foundation
Robert Sterling Clark Foundation
Schonberger Family Foundation
Stella and Charles Guttman Foundation
Still Point Fund
Sunny and Abe Rosenberg Foundation
Taproot Foundation
Tin Man Fund
van Ameringen Foundation
Viola Bernard Foundation
W. Clement & Jessie V. Stone Foundation
William T. Grant Foundation
William Penn Foundation
WKBJ Foundation

Youth Communication has thousands of compelling, true stories by teens that can help convey your message and achieve your educational objectives. To find stories, search our online archive by topic. If you have specialized needs, or don’t find what you want, contact Loretta Chan, lchan@youthcomm.org, or 212-279-0708 x. 115. Less than 25% of our story archive is online at any one time.

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Our email newsletters include award-winning stories, lessons, & resources to use with teens.

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CARING ADULTS: Stories, activities & expert guidance to help teensthrough tough times, from HeretoListen.org ( Monthly email )
FOSTER CARE STAFF: Includes stories and activities from Representmagazine ( Monthly email )
TEACHERS: Stories and activities from YCteen magazine ( Monthly email )