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April 2016 Grants News

Learning from Life Stories 

Teens help each other through personal, powerful writing


“My adoptive parents abused me and my brother. I felt more safe, tough, and powerful as a tomboy. Neither the male nor the female gender box defines me. I merged my two looks into something I call ‘tomgirl.’” 

—Adapted from Selena Garcia’s “Tomgirl: Why Can’t We All Be Ourselves?” published in Represent, The Voice for Youth in Care magazine.

ON THE COVER: Selena Garcia, 16 (left), at the Youth Communication office in Manhattan. Above, she works with editor Virginia Vitzthum. Photos by Ari Mintz for The Trust

Teens might not listen to adults, but they do listen to—and learn from—each other. 

Youth Communication, an education nonprofit, has editors who work with young writers from tough backgrounds, helping them share stories about overcoming challenges. Intense accounts of violence, abuse, bullying, addiction, and other issues fill the pages of two magazines, published nine times a year. 

The writers inspire fellow teens by showing how they built a healthy relationship, dealt with doubts about body image, or learned to cope in tough situations without violence. A sense of accomplishment comes from the act of writing and from helping readers. 

Youth Communication creates workshops to help adults lead discussions about these stories in classrooms, after-school programs, foster homes, and residences that offer alternatives to incarceration. Youth Communication will use our $50,000 grant to test a curriculum that’s only for girls and young women.  

Holly St. Lifer, an editor, says stories by peers are great catalysts for conversations: “It’s much easier to start on a sensitive topic like sexual abuse if you’re able to talk about the author, rather than yourself.” 


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