Thank you for 15+ years of service, Loretta

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Please join me in thanking Loretta Chan for her incredible 15+ years of service as Youth Communication’s Marketing Director, and in wishing her well as she transitions out of her role. Loretta began her decades-long relationship with YC as a teen in our writing program and, over the past two decades, has worn many hats on staff at the organization. We will all miss her warm demeanor, curious nature, exceptional playlists, and incredible leadership. Loretta has a distinct talent in making every member of our community feel welcome, and has been instrumental in helping us reach ambitious goals with few resources. She is a core component of what has made Youth Communication so special, and we are all so grateful to call her a friend.

Warmly, 

Betsy Cohen
Executive Director


Loretta reflected on her time at Youth Communication from when she first entered the offices as a teen writer, to the end of her over 15 years supporting YC in various initiatives:

As a teen, I had the profound experience of joining the staff as a teen writer in YC’s  Annual Summer Writing Workshop in 1992. Taking the 7 train into Manhattan to this first “job” was thrilling and made me feel important. I was a shy kid from Queens and publishing my stories was an introvert’s path to being heard. It was also a way to understand myself, to feel known, to connect with other NYC teen writers, and to help teen readers with my stories.

Many years later, in 2006, I had the privilege to be hired back to YC as the organization’s first marketing director. It was the calling of a lifetime! I felt lucky to be chosen to help amplify teen stories and to support future writers so that they could have the same opportunity that I had.  

It has been a remarkable journey since then, as I helped YC evolve through numerous publishing trends and business models with the ever-present goal of reaching teen readers (and the adults who care about them) where they are at. We went from only publishing our stories in two award-winning print magazines, to expanding our portfolio to include dozens of anthologies, and developed relationships with publishing partners that feature our stories in their books, curricula, textbooks, and online publications. It is a joy to represent YC when new publishers discover us and say it feels like they, “hit a gold mine.” They recognize that we offer something rare to their readers: high-quality, authentic teen writing on both universal and timely issues of the day. 

Doing “marketing” at YC is a combination of showcasing our teen stories and creating new content, and then weaving it all together to tell the full story of the organization. As the internet transformed how readers digest content over the years, I worked with designers and developers to move our stories from our print publications to our online platforms. I have also had the pleasure of collaborating with filmmakers to produce videos to illustrate the power of our writing and education programs.

One memorable project was working with a dramaturge and a cast of actors to stage our stories at Symphony Space to celebrate YC’s 25th anniversary, which was later adapted to sold-out performances at the Fringe Festival. And I had the honor of producing several fundraisers and events, including over a dozen productions of the annual Awards for Youth in Foster Care. It’s one of my favorite evenings of the year, a ceremony to celebrate the achievements and writing of youth in foster care.

For the last few years, we have built a movement to help educators implement our innovative curriculum—based entirely on our teen stories – so that they strengthen relationships in their communities and boost students’ social and emotional learning. During the pandemic, it felt even more urgent to lift young people’s voices and to help educators meet their equity-minded goals. It was a joy to see feedback from students who said that discussing a YC story in the classroom made them feel that their peers and adult leaders were listening to them.  

I’m proud to be part of both a legacy of writers and a passionate staff, who are working to transform how teachers can best understand and nurture students with stories that reflect the experiences of young people in a real way. I wish my colleagues, writers, and our supporters all the best as they forge ahead with this critical work. 


We also asked members of the YC community to write about some of their favorite memories about working with Loretta. Read them below:

From Education & Professional Development

Of the many things to admire and value about Loretta, I will always remember how she kept our focus on the youth. I’d imagine that other people in her role could easily lose sight of that, but Loretta never did. At key moments in all-staff and other meetings, Loretta would bring the group back to why we are here. Each time, you could feel the group pause and refocus on the question or idea Loretta raised. This reflects her being a former writer, but also just who she is. She never loses sight of the humanity of the people she’s talking to or about.

I will miss her caring spirit. Whenever she asked, “How are you?” I knew that she really wanted to know how I was. Like, really wanted to know. She wasn’t just being polite or breaking the ice or checking off an item on the agenda.

-Tim Fredrick, Senior Director of Education Programs

Loretta embodies what Youth Communication is at its core. She believes in the power of narrative to transform. She sees how we are best prepared to traverse challenges and manifest our dreams when we have clarity in our own stories. She flows seamlessly from listener, to creator, to presenter as she guides us towards our better selves. She never looses sight of the story, the point of view, the purpose and the power. Thank you Loretta.

-Sharahn LaRue

I met Loretta in 2007 when I began working as an editor at Represent and she had recently returned to YC after having been a YC teen writer years before. I remember that Loretta was so kind and welcoming to me as a new staff member. I don’t think I appreciated at the time that she was also fairly new to her role, because she had deep knowledge of the organization. Loretta has always been the person who solved problems, who worked skillfully behind the scenes – from marketing to outreach to sales to editing – to keep YC growing and moving forward. And she made it a welcoming, friendly place for the writers — I always really appreciated that. 

Loretta, you’ve worn so many hats and accomplished so much at and for YC over the years; I admire you a lot and I’m really happy that you now have an opportunity to take some time for yourself, define new goals, and start the next chapter. I know it’s going to be amazing and I can’t wait to see what you do. Wishing you all the best – you deserve it!

-Autumn Spanne, former editor

I’ve been Loretta’s “boss” for the majority of the past four years. I also feel very lucky to call her a friend, confidant, and thought-partner. From the moment I started at YC, Loretta has been incredibly kind and welcoming. She generously shares everything she knows, anticipates people’s needs, and always asks the most insightful questions.

From my first day at YC it was clear: Loretta makes sure things get done, but never comes across as a taskmaster. She instinctively and effortlessly picks up the slack, anticipates issues and what people need, and supports everyone to be their best. She naturally manages up, down, and sideways in everything she does. And, she’s such a pleasure to be around and work with.

One of my earliest projects with Loretta was working together on our marketing video. She did SO much legwork gathering input from everyone, writing the script, hiring the director, arranging the shoots and training event, and sitting with me and the director through the editing. It was so much fun to get to know her so well, and to learn how profound her connections to YC are through that process.

Loretta has been a constant and a lifeline for everyone at YC. I’ve never known anyone so universally liked and admired by so many different people. She is so skilled at supporting and showing up for others. In our check-ins, she would always ask the best questions, and I would find myself wanting to share a ton of ideas and details with her always, because she approaches everything with such openness and curiosity. She’s also a consummate team player. Whenever anyone was experiencing a challenge or struggling, Loretta would find a way to help move them forward—never showing signs of impatience or frustration.

I will also miss her dope playlists and great laugh. And, how she would spell out certain NSFW words rather than saying them out loud (because she’s such a good mom!).

-Betsy Cohen, Executive Director

I met Loretta when she was a teen writer. I knew her a bit as a person, but more through the amazingly wide range of topics she wrote about: feminism, racism, religion, family, clubbing, food, and more. She really stood out for the diversity of her interests and her willingness to explore so many topics.

When we hosted our 25th Anniversary event at Symphony Space—instead of doing a gala–Loretta and I still wanted it to feel as much as possible like a more personal dinner. So we spent countless hours reviewing all 800 guests. We seated each one of them, as much as possible, adjacent to several people they would find interesting. We heard from many people afterwards about how delighted they were to meet such lovely people at the event. I still can’t believe we did that.I still don’t know how Loretta felt about this, but we traveled to San Francisco together to visit other youth programs, do some fundraising, drum up support for the California edition of our foster care magazine, and run a booth at a media conference, and probably some other things I forgot about. I wanted to make the most of the time, so I scheduled meetings every couple of hours, starting pretty early and ending pretty late, every day. There was no Uber in those days, and to save money on hotel bills, and we were each staying with friends in different parts of the city. So, each morning, we’d have to jump on a bus or BART at 7 a.m. to meet in front of some office building at 8, and then go, go, go. To me, this was just efficient. But did Loretta think I was crazy? We should ask her.

Also, as I got older, Loretta would become protective of me. If we were going to a PD session or some other event, and schlepping lots of books and handouts, she’d always volunteer to carry them up the subway steps, for example. (It had not occurred to me that I needed help, but it the offer was sweet.)

And, one day a few years ago, not long after Damien, a boy we had raised, had died, Loretta’s daughter Cleo was in the office. She could tell I was feeling low. She was busily doing the art projects that she often did when she spent time in the office. At the end of the day she gave me a beautiful “feel better” card, which did lift my spirits and which I still have and treasure.

Loretta and I know each other pretty well because we have spent so much time together. I will miss having her around to let me know when I should just get over something.

And though it has been a very long time since she was a writer, when the occasion demanded, Loretta could go right back to feeling and describing what about the experience was especially valuable for her and other teen writers. It is always good to be reminded of that.

And I’ll miss just how much she gets done. I know I take it for granted that every week she completes countless tasks. completely consistent with our values and mission. It is a rare privilege to have someone who is always anticipating what needs to be done and how it should be done to be effective and true to who we are. When the next project comes up that I think would be perfect for Loretta, or the question I want to ask her because I know she’ll have the right answer—then I’ll really feel her absence!

Other than Tom and my family, I’ve spent more time in the same space over the past 17 years with Loretta than anyone else. I’ll miss the daily banter, about YC, current events, whatever…and especially Loretta rolling her eyes at me when I start to provide a psychological motivation explanation for an event or someone’s behavior.

-Keith Hefner, Founder & Senior Advisor

 

To Editorial & Teen Writing Program

Youth Communication was, strangely enough, my first nonprofit job, and when I arrived on 29th Street in the fall of 2008, I felt like I’d gone to coworker heaven. I’d exclaim to my friends, “Everyone who works there is smart and kind and chill and hard-working, and they all care about the teen writers. There’s not a single diva!” Working as a team had never felt so natural or easy.

As the years went by, I realized that Loretta was central to the compassion and cooperation that powered the work and made the teens feel at home. Self-effacing, possibly to a fault?, it was Loretta who thought through the details of what would make the kids feel special at Represent Thanksgiving or Awards for Youth. Who figured out what part of the teen stories to highlight in the email blasts. Who saw how all the pieces of YC could fit together so we could row in the same direction. In our long conversations about work, she often shared insights from another department that made me see the whole organization and its evolution more clearly.

Having been a teen writer and longtime co-creator of the YC mission is part of her expertise, but curiosity and empathy inform all Loretta’s relationships. Her sweetness is bracingly balanced by a snarky tartness and dark, dark gallows humor. All these aspects of her helped me handle the sorrow of getting close to youth who’ve been through way too much.

Because she’s tougher on herself than on anyone else, I’m never sure if Loretta gets how amazing and beloved she is or how much she gave us all. Having her as a coworker, and now friend, has made me a better person. She made YC better too. Loretta gave Youth Communication much of its unique and beautiful combination of smarts, heart, and soul.

-Virginia Vitzthum, former Represent editor

Loretta is truly a model employee. We have worked together for 2 years and I knew she was cool when she brought in lychee snacks on one of my first days. Although we didn’t have much time in the office together, I know she worked tirelessly on so many projects, from the FC Awards and writer recruitment, to creating YC’s web presence to what it is today. I am excited to see what she does next, but I think the first thing should be to dye the tips of her hair purple again, that was tres chic. With her gone, to fill her void, I am thinking about pursuing an oral history project about her former (or current?) “other” life, which I gleaned was spent as a mainstay as a social influencer partying at the trendiest places in NYC (she hasn’t yet denied any of this, thus making me believe all my suspicions are true).

 -Seth Berkman, Editor

Although I only have about three months of experience working with Loretta, I will miss her deeply. From the very beginning of my time at YC, Loretta has reached out to me personally and made me feel welcome, cared for, and seen. She asked me to have lunch just a few days after I started working, where we talked shop but also talked about our visions for our lives. And that turned out to be the last time I dined indoors with someone during this crazy time we live in! So Loretta will have a special place in my pandemic memory.

It takes a special kind of person to spread such goodwill to someone new. I know that Loretta and I have recently experienced some parallel losses. In the past month, a very difficult time in my life, Loretta has reminded me to keep stock of what is important. She has checked in on me gently but persistently, and I feel nothing but tremendous gratitude for her warmth. While I’m sad that I won’t get to see Loretta in the office anymore, I’m thrilled for her to embark on new adventures, however big or small they may be.

Miss you already, Loretta!

-Ellen Song, Senior Editor, Represent Magazine

This should be fact checked. Details are hazy. Many years ago Loretta dyed her hair blonde/yellow/something in that part of the spectrum. One day I opened a file cabinet in her office and saw this hairy black thing which I soon figured out was a wig. I don’t remember who told me or if it’s even true but the story I remember was that Loretta wore it when she went to see her grandmother so as not to confuse or upset her. She wasn’t that concerned about confusing people who opened her file cabinets.

Most writers should never read their stuff out loud. Let actors do it. You spend your time writing, they spend their time learning how to say things out loud. Easy concept to grasp. However, there are exceptions. Back in 1997, we held a party to celebrate the publication of Starting With I, a collection of our writers’ best stuff. Beautiful room at the Teachers and Writers Collaborative. And Loretta read from her story, “Dad’s Home Cooking.” Can’t say how much I was moved that reading. So I won’t say anything else.

-Tom Brown, Administrative Advisor

 

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