Best Developer of Young City Writers (2010)

New Youth Connections

One of the wonderful lessons taught by New Youth Connections, the inner-city teen writing program launched back in 1980, is that when you ask kids to write about their everyday lives, they can be both clearer and more eloquent than any professional journalist or academic. The program's publications have allowed city kids to tell stories on issues ranging from confrontations with cops, the pressures to "stop snitching," sex for the first time, becoming a young mother (or father), and the agonies of foster care. Does it work? Ask Edwidge Danticat, the novelist who got her chops in the program back in 1984 as a teenager and has since won a MacArthur "genius" award (as has NYC founder Keith Hefner); or Ernesto Quiñonez, author of the novel Bodega Dreams, about East Harlem. At New Youth Connections, Quiñonez says, "The word actually meant something and actually spoke to me."


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