Youth development specialist, teacher, journalist. These are the three distinct skills sets that Kendra Hurley has mastered and brought to the many roles she has filled at Youth Communication over the past six years, moving from counselor to teacher, to her current position as Co-Editor of Represent magazine, which gives voice to youth in foster care.
Working with teens in foster care is extremely challenging as they have all been effectively abandoned by their families and have experienced a range of stress and chaos during their time in the foster care system, all of which has lead them to have a great mistrust of authority. Ms. Hurley provides youth development support by helping the teens to see past their anger and guide them to a more constructive understanding of their pasts, and to see and appreciate the strengths they have used to survive.
As a writing teacher, Kendra works with teens with a very wide range of skills, ranging from a love of writing to very little sustained formal education. Yet she maintains the same quality standards for them all, which includes writing over 10 drafts of their 1,500-word stories over the course of two months. Through the writing process, Ms. Hurley helps her young people come to terms with their experiences while teaching them how to write their stories in a compelling manner. In order to be responsive to the needs and abilities of each teen, she has developed dozens of lessons that she teaches in groups and individually. Ms. Hurley’s patience, non-judgmental attitude, and sincere interests in her youth have attracted many young people to join the Represent team.
The final aspect of her job is to transform the young people’s hurt, anger, hopes and dreams into a coherent, compelling and powerful magazine – a magazine that grabs the attention of young people who are ordinarily resistant to reading, and shows them how to deal with the practical and emotional challenges in their lives. Every two months she oversees the publication of a magazine that balances themes important to these teens lives, such as family court, mental health services and coping with loneliness, along with lighter stories such as what teens do for fun.
In the end, Kendra feels that the reason the program works so well is that Youth Communication needs the teens as much as the teens need the program. Through this symbiotic relationship, she is able to help nurture and sustain positive relationships, serving as a mentor and advocate for her teens on all levels – from helping them manage their problems with agencies to advising them in the college application process.
A native Texan who now resides in Manhattan, Ms. Hurley received her B.A. in English Literature at Wesleyan University and her M.F.A. from Columbia University. In addition, she has written for numerous publications, including USA Today, The Christian Science Monitor, City Limits, and Child Welfare Watch.