New Leadership and Future Growth

I am excited to announce that Deputy Director Betsy Cohen will become Executive Director on January 1, 2020. I will retire as ED and continue to serve Youth Communication as a Senior Advisor, after leading this work for 40 years.

Betsy came to YC two years ago after increasingly important roles at Houghton Mifflin; a major charter school network; and the Center for Supportive Schools. At CSS, she led growth of its peer-based social and emotional learning program in New York City. With a degree in comparative literature from Emory and a master’s in theology from Harvard Divinity School, Betsy was drawn to the transformative power of teen writing and youth voice that is at the heart of YC’s mission.

As you may know, over the past several years YC has transitioned from a youth media company to a professional services organization. Teen voices are still at the center of our work. But we now reach young people increasingly through story-based curricula and professional development. These programs are getting an extraordinarily positive response. In surveys, more than 90% of educators report that our training and lessons are the best they get.

Over the next several years, Betsy will lead efforts to significantly scale our story-based professional services model. We’ll add new partners and programs, and broaden the reach of the teen voices in New York City and beyond.

Betsy has won the enthusiastic and unanimous support from the Youth Communication staff and board. And I am grateful to be handing over leadership to someone who shares my lifelong passion for youth voice and social justice. I began this work 50 years ago, as a 15-year-old, when I started a small nonprofit publishing company focused on youth activism. Ten years later, I launched YC with the hope that it could radically increase the reach and influence of youth voices.

That happened. Millions of teens have read our stories in our magazines and in the countless books, curricula, and websites where they have been republished.

Betsy will increase that impact. She has already doubled our earned revenue from program sales and built partnerships with dozens of schools and youth serving agencies. This year, we will train more than 500 teachers and out-of-school staff to use our story-based programs. They will work with more than 15,000 teens in NYC and throughout the nation.

As I look back, it has been especially satisfying to work with the 2,500 teens who have participated in our writing workshops and shared their stories. They are making their marks as teachers, doctors, lawyers, social workers, journalists and more. Recently, I have enjoyed participating in our professional development efforts. I will never tire of seeing teachers’ astonishment at the increase in student engagement when they use our stories and lessons.

As I look forward, I am thrilled to know that Betsy will continue the mission of helping youth tell stories that will make a difference–for their peers, for the institutions in which they find themselves, and for their communities. It will be a privilege to support her.

This work would not be possible without the contributions and support of thousands of funders, writers, educators, youth workers, readers, customers, and other friends. We deeply appreciate your encouragement and friendship over the years and look forward to your continued support during this exciting transition.

Thank you,

Keith Hefner,
Executive Director

P.S. If you’d like to know more about our goals and activities, please see these FAQs. 

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