Danita Branam is one of the pioneers of, and inspirations for, the Development School for Youth (DSY), a leadership-training program for inner-city youth sponsored by the All Stars Project, Inc. in New York City.
From the program’s inception in 1997, Danita has been a role model, a counselor, and a friend to more than 400 young people who have graduated from the DSY program, all while working high-pressure days in the financial services industry.
Seven years ago, Danita led a team of volunteer adult executives to give hands-on support to inner-city youth enrolled in the DSY. They developed the curriculum, recruited workshop leaders, found paid summer internships in corporate settings, and accompanied the youth to their training workshops, thereby cultivating the model that DSY uses to this day. Danita was the first Program Associate for the DSY and the first and current Assistant Program Director. In her current position, she works day as a career development coach helping inner-city young people successfully negotiate the business environment and interact with adults on a professional level.
Danita devotes her nights and weekends to the DSY, believing that her core values lie in this program. In the summer of 2004 alone, there are 150 DSY youth in corporate jobs in NYC and over 50 in Newark, with more than 75 companies providing internships. As the program continues to grow, Danita introduces new adult volunteers to the DSY model, enabling them to, in turn, foster other young people’s growth. Through Danita’s example, the graduates of the DSY have developed tools to perform in new situations particularly in job interviews with corporate New Yorkers which they will be able to use for the rest of their lives.
For Danita, her strong leadership and generous spirit are second nature. “[Growing up], I had to learn from examples outside my community how to handle myself [in the professional world],” she says. “I am happy to use my resources to…provide a platform and environment for young people to learn how to perform as successful, creative adults.”