April 27 the New York City Department of Youth & Community Development held its first comic book creation initiative for middle school students all across New York City in a special collaboration with Darryl Makes Comics and The Comic Book Project.

Held at the Stanley Isaacs Neighborhood Center, the DYCD Heroes Project offered students a chance to showcase their creativity by displaying their comic book manuscripts and artwork that they have been working on in after-school programs funded by the DYCD.

With 25 teams in attendance, judges made their way around and decided upon three winning teams that will go on to work with professional comic book artists and display their finished products at a Kids Comic Con in June.

Judges included hip-hop legend and Darryl Makes Comics publisher and founder Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, his editor in chief Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez and Michael Bitz, founder of The Comic Book Project.

Bitz believes that the event is an “opportunity for kids to develop their writing skills, communication skills and also be creative.”

Mostly known as a hip-hop pioneer in the music industry, McDaniels said he wrote and drew comics growing up as a kid. Although he says it was seen as a nerdy thing to do, he credits those moments for building his confidence and exploring his other creative abilities.

“The arts are the key to all of our children,” said McDaniels. “We want to use the arts to spark and encourage the child’s creativity so that it leads to them being not ashamed to be educated and to learn.”

The comic book initiative strives to enhance literacy skills and communication skills among New York City middle school students by allowing them to use their imagination to write and create stories of all kinds.

“The best learning is experiential learning,” said DYCD Commissioner Bill Chong. “So when doing their comic books, they’re learning how to write, draw and how to present their storyline.”

Jalen Scott, 11, of P.S. 171 in Queens said the best part of the event was coming together and working as a team with his classmates.

Maisha and Sumaiya of the Young Women’s Leadership School in Queens displayed their manuscript of a young woman defeating the depression-themed villain in her life. They were excited to see the comic books of other students, but they stated, “We’re excited for everyone to see the hard work we put in, too.”

The winners of the DYCD Heroes Project included Kyrabel Collado and Ivette Rodriguez of Girls Incorporated of New York City–The Young Women’s Leadership School of the Bronx; Kylie Macana, Gianna Then, Isamar Brito and Makayla Serrett of NYCID Staten Island School of Civic Leadership; and Annie Mendez of Grand Street Settlement–Bushwick Cornerstone.

“If you give these kids an opportunity they don’t want to just do well, they want to excel,” said McDaniels. “We need to celebrate their creativity and that will lead them down other paths.”


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