Engaging Youth to Become Agents of Change in Their Community

by Deirdre Appel
Directions for Our Youth, Inc. Community Spotlight Series

Part of the Community Spotlight Series

Name: Directions for Our Youth, Inc.

What They Do: Directions for Our Youth, Inc. (DFOY) is a non-profit community-based youth-development organization providing quality out-of-school-time programming for young people enrolled in grades K-12 in underserved areas of the Bronx and Manhattan. DFOY provides more than 1,200 students with high-quality content-driven programs encouraging educational enrichment, healthy eating and lifestyle choices, career awareness, civic engagement and personal development.

How They Do It: While DFOY’s programs center on youth empowerment and education, their programs are divided into various types depending on the funding source. Programs operate on different cycles that align with the traditional break periods of the New York City school system.

One of their main initiatives is the DFOY Cornerstone program. Operating out of the Butler Community Center (NYC Housing Authority), which is open six days a week for eleven hours a day, the program  provides services to 200 students and adults, with the greatest focus on middle school participants.

Another important program is Learning to Work (LTW), which focuses on students who have transferred school and have  fallen behind in credits. The goal is to help these students overcome the obstacles preventing them from obtaining a high school diploma and guide them toward employment and/or further educational opportunities after graduation.

Mission: Their mission is to make young people active partners in their own development as they seek to become thriving, self-sufficient adults and agents of change within their local and global communities.

Latest project/campaign: One of DFOY’s ongoing projects is their School’s Out NYC (SONYC) program. Developed for students in sixth through eighth grades, DFOY has implemented SONYC programs at M.S. 181 (Co-op City, Bronx), M.S. 498 (Morris Park, Bronx), M.S. 180 (Co-op City, Bronx), St. Ignatius (Hunts Point, Bronx) and the Cornelia Connelly Center (Manhattan). Structured like clubs, young people are given a choice about how they spend their time while receiving rigorous instruction in sports, arts, or gardening, all while emphasizing  leadership through service. SONYC programs use trips and other tools as ways to provide opportunities for instruction beyond the traditional educational setting. The programs are offered three hours each day, five days per week.

Major Funding: N/A

Profit/nonprofit: Nonprofit

Annual Revenue:  $2,900,000

Interesting fact about how they are working to positively affect the food system:  DFOY is positively affecting the food system in New York City by empowering young people to be active agents of change within their own communities and become role models for healthy eating to their peers. Viewing youth as the future of tomorrow, DFOY aims to give them all the tools they need to thrive today.


Location: 349 East 149 Street, Suite 501, Bronx, New York, 10451. There are also 9 other sites in schools in Bronx and Manhattan. A full list of locations can be viewed here.

Core Programs: Youth empowerment, community development, food justice, healthy food access, school food, school gardens

Number of staff: 16

Number of volunteers: N/A

Areas served: Bronx, Manhattan

Year Started: 1991

Director/Founder: Ramik Williams

Contact Information: drivera@dfoy.org

Website: https://www.dfoy.org

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