When I first joined the YC family, I was a rising high school freshman feeling like an outcast at my predominantly white upper class school on 5th Ave, coming from a lower middle class single parent home. Writing was a coping mechanism for me and in many ways therapeutic. It gave me an outlet for my frustrations and helped me to learn how to better express myself.
The summer writing workshop at Youth Communication was my first opportunity to learn how to be consistent with a structure. We had to be in at a certain time everyday. We had to be focused and engaged with our work. We had to plan the pieces we wanted to write about. We had to deal with deadlines if we wanted our pieces printed. We had to dress appropriately to visit major publications like Real Simple. Most importantly, we had to write with the reader’s best interest in mind. How will my story help teen readers? Why is this story important to tell? At 14 years old, I had no idea that I was actually learning how to be a professional and that these skills would change my life -- and the lives of other young people too.
Even though I felt like an outcast at my school, I learned that my story was unique and somewhat privileged compared to my fellow writers at Youth Communication. I connected with other writers my age and learned about their struggles with prostitution, the difficulties of the foster care system, facing depression, and coming to terms with their sexuality. I witnessed a transformation in the other writers, as well as within myself. But we were not the only ones who were undergoing the transformation. We, as writers, were also transforming the lives of thousands of readers. By writing our stories, we were processing our experiences. Readers were doing the same by reading and discussing our stories.
Learning how to write, express myself and operate as a young professional has transformed my life, my socioeconomic status, my feelings about myself and much more. I'm now a senior manager at Viacom and I've been promoted 3 times in the last five years. My career has grown quickly and I attribute much of that growth to the opportunities I had as a teen.
I recently joined the board because the mission of YC aligns with my personal mission to empower marginalized young people and equip them with the skills they need to be successful in the world. As a brand ambassador in a national women's empowerment campaign, I'm focused on sharing tools to help young women grow their self-esteem and ultimately their purpose. That’s where the Real Women program comes in. I believe that the transformation that Youth Communication has made in me and the lives of teens over the past 35 years can happen for tens of thousands of girls through Real Women. The stories and lessons in Real Women will help educators inspire girls to broaden their sense of self so that they feel empowered to voice their opinions, unlock opportunities and shape their own futures.