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We partied with purpose!

By Jayne O'Donnell

Youthcast Media Group®

I’m still not sure what my favorite part was of Youthcast Media Group’s second (ever!) fundraiser late last month. 

Was it watching six students, aged 15 to 20, talking up their journalism accomplishments and working the room of Washington professionals? Was it the powerful argument made by Adam Cohen, the White House’s Deputy Director of National Drug Policy, for youth journalism to help stem the stigma of addiction and mental illness? Or perhaps the appearance by Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., who represents Hartford, where dozens of our current and former participants live?

(left) YMG student creator Daisy Garriga, (middle) YMG CEO Jayne O'Donnell, (right) Deputy Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Adam Cohen.

Then again, the sponsor poster board was super exciting by itself. We received a $10,000 platinum, a $5,000 gold, a $2,500 silver and seven bronze-level donations of $1,000. 

Actually, it was all of the above - and more. 

YMG is on a roll. The Monocle Restaurant on Capitol Hill, where our June 25th event was held, had twice the space as Pikoteo In McLean, Va., where we held our first Student Showcase in November. So we attracted twice as many attendees, invited more students and displayed more poster boards of their articles and social media visuals. We have a lot more to be proud of and it was great to show a larger audience. 

But it was some of the more behind the scenes connections leading up to the Showcase and less obvious ‘wins’ during the event that got me really excited. Among them: 

  • For every sponsorship and ticket sold, there was at least one more where a company, group or person that didn’t know anything about YMG before is now both informed and interested in possible funding and/or partnership. (And if I’m good at anything after 40-plus years in journalism, it’s following up, aka nagging.) 

  • “Who you know” matters and it’s a disparity I’m personally adept at addressing. Few things were more exciting than connecting aspiring young journalists including rising Central Connecticut State University freshman Daisy Garriga of Hartford and rising University of Miami senior Angely Pena-Agramonte of Miami with former colleagues such as Cara Kelly of American University’s Investigative Reporting Workshop and David Lynch of the Washington Post. 

  • Experiences make a difference. We decided to make a bigger splash with the young people and their work and plan to continue that focus. Even post-Covid, people in Washington and elsewhere get tired of hearing canned speeches from professional communicators. This time, we decided to have two young speakers - a longtime YMG participant and rising college freshman who got a full ride to UNC-Chapel Hill and a student from our inaugural cohort who just graduated from UMD’s Honors College. We’ll continue to rely on our youth to tell our story as much as possible. 

We’re not curing cancer or heart disease - though we do write about the diseases’ social determinants - and it will be a long time before our events bring in the big bucks of the disease groups in town. But we’re making a difference in big and small ways in our students’ lives - and can always use more of your help. Email me if you’d like to discuss how at


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