VOX Teen Communications looking for full-time director; founder to be in strategic role

By Maria Saporta

After 19 years at the helm of VOX Teen Communications, Rachel Alterman Wallack is stepping aside as the nonprofit’s executive director but will take on a new role as director of strategic initiatives.

Wallack, who founded the organization that has become metro Atlanta’s premier writing program for teens, has been serving as a part-time (75 percent) executive director for the past six years so she could spend more time with her family and raising her three children.

Now she and the VOX board believe it’s time for the nonprofit to focus on long term strategic plan and put in place a new leadership model.

“We need a full-time executive director,” Wallack said in an interview.

She said that in order for VOX to move “beyond scrappy to being sustainable,” a full-time executive director would help implement the board’s vision and strategic plan.

Wallack said that she and board members began discussing succession four years ago, but a combination of the challenging economy and a relocation of the VOX newsroom and learning center put those plans on the back-burner until now.

“The success of the organization goes beyond any one individual,” Wallack said. “Succession planning and staff development was a key goal for us.”

The search for a new executive director officially was launched on Monday when VOX posted a job description on its website.

“This will be an external search,” Wallack said. . “We are hoping the new executive director will be in place by July 1.”

VOX applied for and received a grant from the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta to help in its search efforts, which will be managed by the organization. The plan is to look for someone based in metro Atlanta who has a background in nonprofit management, fundraising, youth development and team-building.

Wallack said that if candidates have a background in journalism and communications, it would be a bonus but not necessary. VOX already has an editorial team in place that helps teens publish a free newspaper five times a year, reaching 90,000 metro teens.

Wallack said VOX continues to be “metro Atlanta’s only uncensored, citywide forum for expression created by and for teens.” It is distributed at 360 locations, including schools, libraries, youth organizations and foster homes.

In addition to producing the VOX newspaper, teens also blog on the voxteencommunications.org website. The content typically includes personal narratives, poetry, graphics, photography, reviews of books, music and fashion and issues impacting today’s youth, including juvenile justice and human trafficking.

Although she will no longer be executive director, Wallack said she will continue to be engaged.

“I won’t be leaving. I will just be in a new capacity,” she said. “I continue to believe in the mission of VOX and teen communication.”

But Wallack also said she is looking forward to working with a new executive director who can bring a different set of skills to take VOX to the next level.

“The critical work envisioned in our strategic plan – to expand the reach of our teen skill-building programs and continue incorporating new digital media into VOX’s mission – will be enhanced with full-time executive leadership,” said Rebecca Burns, the 2011-2012 co-chair of the VOX board and director of digital strategy for Emmis Publishing. “Also, Rachel’s new role will utilize her visionary strengths in youth development and youth media to move us forward toward key goals and enhance our work with teens.”

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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