Virginia Vitzthum is a mentor, writing instructor, and editor of Represent: The Voice of Youth in Foster Care, a magazine published by Youth Communication written for and by youth in the foster care system. Virginia recruits, trains, and works closely with foster youth aged 14 to 23 on personal essays about their lives and reported stories. Through the process, Virginia helps them overcome trauma, celebrate their triumphs, and recognize their own resilience that contributes to their survival and growth.
Virginia’s role extends far beyond editor of the youth she works with. She often serves as case manager, therapist and confidante and for many of her teens, going above and beyond, often serving as the only caring adult in a young person’s life who will be there when no one else can be. Virginia connects her students with legal help, pro-bono therapists, and helps them navigate the housing system. She takes them to plays, Knicks games, art openings and protests where they fight for their rights. Many of the writers, who have often bounced from home to home and school to school, think of Youth Communication as a second home and Virginia as a supportive parent – finding a place in their lives where they feel unconditionally welcomed and supported. As one student remarked, “Being in the system was the hardest thing I had to overcome – 20 different placements, from home to home to home. I had to learn to survive but I didn’t do it alone. Miss Virginia was there. She was always in my corner. Every step I took she held my hands.”
Under her stewardship, Represent has won numerous awards from Mental Health America, The American Association of Publishers, the Center for Community and Ethnic Media at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, and the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. Through Virginia’s dedication, Represent magazine helps thousands of readers. When the readers see authentic reflections of themselves, they feel less isolated, their challenges feel less daunting, and they are inspired to work for brighter futures.
Prior to Represent, Virginia was an editor for numerous publications including Time Out New York and Publishers Weekly. Virginia has also served as a freelance writer, dramaturg, actor, and songwriter, and authored two books including I Love You, Let’s Meet: Adventures in Online Dating.