Executive directors DeAnna McLeary and Na-Tae' Thompson began True Star in the fall of 2004 as four page newsletter with one journalism program and 17 students. They have since grown the organization to what are now seven programs that employ 150 student apprentices and several adult instructors who collectively produce a 52-page quarterly publication as well as teen events for youth ages 12-18 in the Chicago-land area. True Star was borne from a needs assessment completed by urban youth in Chicago. The results overwhelmingly indicated youth needed employment, basic literary skills, professional development, and wanted to be heard by their peers and the community at large. True Star is unique to other media outlets catering to youth because it is an after-school and summer program that has provided over 1,500 paid apprenticeship opportunities to Chicago youth since its inception.
We serve youth who come from single and double income homes that often have unsupervised after-school hours. The students we work with are predominantly minorities: 70% African-American, 25% Hispanic and 5% other. Teen participants get to work alongside students from various cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds, to express themselves in innovative ways and understand their role and responsibility as contributing adults to society.