Head Start alumnus Duchesne Drew is senior vice president of American Public Media Group and president of Minnesota Public Radio. Duchesne’s career has been punctuated with several accolades: In 2021, he was inducted into the Hall of Achievement at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism; he received the 2022 Spurgeon Award for outstanding community leaders; and in 2022, he was named to The Root 100, an annual list of the most influential Black Americans in the fields of arts, community, business, entertainment, media, and politics. Read how Head Start helped Duchesne on his journey.
I’m incredibly proud to lead Minnesota Public Radio (MPR). I’m energized by expanding the circle of people who depend on our news, information, and music programming. Our ‘going deeper’ approach helps the public to bridge gaps and form connections through meaningful community engagement and listening experiences. My professional and learning journeys started with Head Start.
I remember attending the Head Start program on Pitkin Avenue in East New York, a section of Brooklyn. I have vivid memories of my mother walking me there. My Head Start classroom was a warm environment that affirmed me as a learner. That affirmation has influenced my journey from Head Start to public media president.
After Head Start, I attended Public School #159 for the first grade, and near the end of that school year, my mother and I moved to Freeport, New York, on Long Island. My mom always seemed to be a step ahead, and to ensure I didn’t experience learning loss; she bought the first-grade reading and math books from the school before we moved and the second-grade books. I spent the rest of the school year and summer completing the lessons in those books. When I began second grade in my new school, those same books were the texts for the year, meaning I was well ahead!
I was a top performer for the remainder of my primary and secondary school years. I graduated from Freeport High School in the top 10% of my class and was accepted into three Ivy League schools. I decided to attend Columbia University to take advantage of being in New York City and remain close to home. While there, I volunteered with and worked for Upward Bound, one of the federal TRiO programs. TRiO programs identify and support high school students from historically marginalized communities as they progress through school and prepare for college. As part of my time with Upward Bound, I saw firsthand the difference that the wraparound approach makes in the lives of students and their families. When I reminisce about the program’s impact on our students, I also think of Head Start and how it offers wraparound services to children and families to provide the support they need while on the journey to self-sufficiency.
After completing my undergraduate studies, I worked at Columbia University as a development officer for Upward Bound and its sister program, Talent Search, for a few years, successfully securing program funding. I then earned a master’s degree at Northwestern University, focusing on journalism. While I was in graduate school, I got an internship with the Minneapolis Star Tribune, one of the nation’s largest newspapers. From that internship, I landed a permanent reporting role and ultimately rose to managing editor of operations with oversight for the copy and design desks, IT, recruitment, training, and more. This experience was an excellent foundation for my future path. After a five-year stint as a vice president of a local foundation, I was hired to lead MPR in early 2020, and I’ve been here ever since.
I’m incredibly proud to be a part of MPR. I’m energized by expanding the circle of people who depend on our news, information, and music programming. Our ‘going deeper’ approach helps the public to bridge gaps and form connections through meaningful community engagement and listening experiences.
When I look for the common thread throughout my life’s journey, it’s been a collection of intentional investments in my potential that have shaped me into who I am today. Head Start is one of those investments.