MacArthur Fellows Program

W. Keith Hefner

Journalist and Educator | Class of 1989

Journalist and Educator
New York, New York
35 at time of award
Published August 1, 1989

About Keith's Work

Keith Hefner, a publisher and an educator, helps urban teens learn to write through Youth Communication, a youth development program he founded in 1980.

Hefner’s group selects New York City public high school students to write for two magazines: New Youth Connections and RepresentNew Youth Connections is a monthly magazine read by 200,000 New York City teens and is widely used in schools to spark reading, writing, and discussion.  The second, Represent, is a national, bimonthly magazine for teens in foster care.  Thousands of teens have contributed to these publications, which treat issues including race relations, child and substance abuse, and sexuality.  Youth Communication also provides college and career counseling to its high school writers and alumni, and trains high school teachers to teach journalistic writing and produce school magazines.


Youth Communication has published several anthologies of magazine articles, including The Heart Knows Something Different: Teenage Voices from the Foster Care System (1996) and The Struggle to be Strong: Teens Write About Overcoming Tough Times (2000).

Hefner published a magazine and a series of books on youth issues prior to founding Youth Communication.  He was a Revson Fellow on the Future of New York City at Columbia University (1986).

Recent News

Keith Hefner is executive director of Youth Communication (YC). YC helps educators develop the skills they need to engage the hardest-to-reach teens and provides teen-written anthologies and curricula educators can use to help teens strengthen their social, emotional, and literacy skills. YC’s intensive writing program has nurtured more than 2,500 teens, including MacArthur Fellow Edwidge Danticat. YC’s two teen magazines—YCteen and Represent—were named 2011 and 2013 Periodical of the Year, respectively, by the Association of Educational Publishers. Hefner is the co-author of several award-winning Youth Communication curricula on masculinity (Real Men: Urban Teens Write About How to Be a Man, 2010), social and emotional learning (Real Stories, Real Teens, 2007), and resilience (The Struggle to Be Strong, 2000). He also helped launch YouthSuccessNYC, a resource for staff who work with teens who are in transition from foster care to adulthood.

Updated July 2015

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