We’re thrilled to announce that Jabari Gray is stepping into a new leadership role as Executive Director of Youth Radio, at a time when young people are increasingly driving conversations about what it means to build a more equitable and just society. He will join Ellin O’Leary, Youth Radio’s President and Chief Content Officer in leading Youth Radio’s growth as we embark on an exciting new four-year strategic plan, with the goal of propelling the organization as a national media leader.
Gray has been key to building the foundation of the organization during the past decade that Youth Radio has been based in Oakland. A knack for developing leaders, along with creative problem-solving, launched Gray from his first role in Youth Radio’s development department to Deputy Director in 2014. Gray’s leadership is widely recognized as pivotal to Youth Radio’s dramatic expansion, rooted in the mission to revolutionize how youth tell stories and the ways people connect with next-generation journalists and artists.
“Gray has a unique style, holding the bar high while supporting staff and students in the creation of high-impact responses to the young people’s needs and talents. This entrepreneurial skill is central to what makes him a great Executive Director,” says Ellin O’Leary, President and Chief Content Officer.
“Youth Radio sets the gold standard in youth-driven media, and it is my full intention to protect and grow its legacy in my new role,” says Gray. “This is a company that actually delivers on its promise to bring honest, diverse, and compelling content to American audiences. For the last 25 years, Youth Radio has assembled teams and partnerships that provide the best out-of-school digital communication education around, consistently producing award-winning journalism.”
Beyond its critical role of providing education, technical training, and professional development for emerging media talent, Gray says the organization serves a larger purpose, creating a crucial platform for young people at this defining moment in our nation’s history.
“Young people’s voices are beacons,” he says. “And we need that beacon more today than at any point in my lifetime. They’re leading the fight against white supremacy, standing up for DACA and immigrant rights, embracing gender equality and fluidity, and more. Youth Radio is stirring artistic expression that moves the needle in public discourse. And you will see us going to the next level, becoming the nerve center of a nationwide network.” Gray explains that involves further expanding Youth Radio’s distribution through media partnerships with The New York Times, Teen Vogue, NPR, and others, as well as developing Youth Radio’s own platforms as a destination for youth-driven stories that can’t be found anywhere else.
In addition to helping Youth Radio scale its impact as an organization, Gray has encouraged countless individuals to develop their own voices during his time at the organization. Sheila Blandon was one of the many talented young leaders Gray recognized and helped to succeed. She was a participant in the Pathways program — a nine-month digital communications workforce training program that Gray helped create.
After becoming involved with Youth Radio, Blandon dove into local community organizing, managing a candidate’s winning school board campaign, and helped others launch new nonprofits and businesses. Blandon credits these wins to Youth Radio, and especially to the trust Gray showed her. “I’ve been able to soar because of the things he taught me and the support he provided,” she said.
“This organization opens up so many different doors for young people and provides skills that I don’t think others are providing for youth right now. Youth Radio is filling that void. It becomes not just a place to learn, but a second home — I know it was for me,” she said.
We hope you will join everyone at Youth Radio and all the communities we serve in welcoming Jabari Gray to his new role, and ushering in a new and exciting era for next-generation storytelling and youth-driven media.