LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Lindi Duesenberg

Position: Programming Director/Afterschool Teacher
School: DMF Youth
School District: DMF Youth
City, State: New York, NY

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Music that Describes Lindi

Lindi Duesenberg was nominated by Jackalyn Carione, her colleague.

Ms. Duesenberg and the fantastic team she built at DMF Youth have changed the lives of over 1,000 children across New York City. Ms. Duesenberg founded DMF Youth, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, in 2014 to address the immediate needs of underserved students in NYC.

While working as a mentor and teaching artist in Title I schools throughout NYC, Ms. Duesenberg found that critical life skill development, social-emotional learning, and mental health curriculum were lacking or nonexistent during the traditional school day. Arts and afterschool enrichment opportunities for low-income and transient families were also minimal.

"Lindi knew she could create a program to help alleviate these issues," explains Carione.

DMF Youth was born out of the idea that a successful afterschool program needed to be much more than a dance class or sports program. It needed to teach children imperative life skills like goal setting, managing emotions, mindfulness, and a growth mindset. By working with educators, psychologists, and Social Emotional Learning (SEL) specialists, she created the DMF Youth curriculum that creatively weaves in these life skills and increases students' self-esteem, confidence, and grit.  

DMF Youth's life-skill development curriculum and dance education empower underserved elementary and middle school students to thrive in and out of school. 

"Lindi has worked diligently since inception to grow DMF Youth into a sought-after service provider capable of delivering high-impact results among the children it touches," said Carione. "Her passion and tireless effort help DMF Youth's afterschool programs expand to its current partners, including four Title 1 schools in East Harlem and Brooklyn and three homeless shelters in the Bronx."

Ms. Duesenberg's afterschool program's success has led to a waiting list of three schools desiring programming. Her efforts have also ensured that all programs remain 100% free to all students, increasing their accessibility to many students.

In addition to Ms. Duesenberg's duties as executive director, she acts as programming director and lead teaching artist for the afterschool programs.

"Through careful selection, she has built a diverse team of teaching artists with professional experience in education and dance," said Carione. "She ensures every teacher receives ongoing training in SEL, classroom management, dance pedagogy, and trauma-informed teaching to provide an inclusive and safe environment for all students."

Through Ms. Duesenberg's creative curriculum, talented and inspiring team, and vision for an equitable education system, she has built a unique and life-changing afterschool program that provides genuine wrap-around support to all students. 

Ms. Duesenberg's leadership can be explained through one of DMF Youth's lead teaching artists: "Lindi has a bright light in her that sparks so much joy and creates a safe space for everyone. She has impacted my growth as a teacher and person. Lindi is an extraordinary leader, compassionate teacher, and most importantly, a kind human." 

The students who have participated in the afterschool programs show measured, documented growth–reduced negative behavior, increased self-esteem, improved stamina and physical health, and stronger self-regulation skills. DMF Youth is the day's highlight for many students, incentivizing higher attendance rates in school and academic performance. Truancy rates among DMF Youth students remain lower than school-wide averages. Many parents, schools, and CBO partners have expressed the impact of our programs on their children.

"DMF Youth plays a critical role for our children as a program that encourages bravery, resiliency, positivity, and leadership and provides lessons to build these skills in our young people. It is one of the few programs that manages to engage our children in learning and personal development, while also being a safe zone and place of much-needed respite in these children's lives."
– John Henry Greenwood, Executive Director, Homes for the Homeless

 "We love DMF Youth. This program has been a blessing for us. You can tell how invested the staff is with every single kid. I have seen how much Olivia has grown emotionally—she's become more self-aware and motivated to achieve her goals. She has learned tools she's been using when she feels down, like affirmations and mindfulness. I've never seen her so engaged."
 – S. Sneider, 3rd grade parent

DMF Youth is unlike any other existing afterschool program. Its life-changing impact on thousands of students can be traced back to Ms. Duesenberg's mission to inspire well bodies, promote creative minds, and foster healthy relationships.

"Her dedication to transforming the lives of youth living in under-resourced neighborhoods across New York City is truly awe-inspiring," said Carione.

Comments (40)

Maxwell Newland Posted over a year ago

Miss. Lindi Duesenberg is truly an outstanding person and instructor. She has this talent at capturing students interests and making emotional connections with them. As an employee I am constantly implementing her skills within my students. This is mainly due to how amazing she is at organizing the flow of her class. Plus, she makes a conscious effort to lay the building blocks of emotional development within her students. Teaching these children vital lessons of empathy, boundaries, and communication. I am truly in awe of the persistence, passion, and love that this educator demonstrates every single class. She truly is the heart of DMF Youth.

Jazz Washington Posted over a year ago

I’ve only worked here for a short time with DMF, & it’s honestly the best job I could have. The way I see the growth in all my students based off what Lindi has created, the mission she’s instilled in all of us, that teach with DMF, really is so beneficial for the kids and really for us as well. I’ve been learning so much about ways of healing my inner child, by making it my mission to want to help heal today’s generation, and working at DMF is to thank for that! Lindi is such a kind soul & has such a huge heart. She always leads with love and openness, which allows the students to do the same!

Katie Cook Posted over a year ago

Lindi is a a life changer in all senses of the word. She is an incredible teacher, role model, mentor, advocate, and entrepreneur, all rolled into one amazing person. Her passion for helping the lives of kids in NYC is demonstrated in everything she does. I have the pleasure of serving on the board of DMF Youth, and have seen first hand the impact Lindi has in our community. She works tirelessly to bring much needed programming to underserved youth in NYC. Free, quality, after school programming is hard to come by, DMF fills that gap for the lucky schools to be involved. Children face many challenges, particularly in a post COVID world. Lindi provides a safe space for these kids to grow as individuals, gain confidence, and have fun. She demonstrates kindness and empathy in all she does, and creates a warm and welcoming environment for children who need it most. She is hard working and humble, and does what she does because she truly loves it. I can't think of anyone more deserving of this honor!

Sabrina Posted over a year ago

Lindi epitomizes the passionate, empathetic, dedicated and supportive educator every kid needs! I’ve seen first hand how life changing DMF Youth can be for these little humans and I can’t wait to see what our DMF kiddos grow up to be. The lessons that they learn in our program give them the skills and the tools to blossom and thrive in all areas of their life. These kids are going to change the world! Being on her staff has been nothing short of transformative and so so inspiring. Every single day she leads by example, giving the kids 110% of herself, and every class I strive to meet that standard. I have become a stronger, more confident, and more effective teacher under Lindi’s leadership and for that I can’t thank her enough! There is no one I know more deserving of a grant than Lindi!

Colleen Unda Posted over a year ago

Lindi is AWESOME in every aspect of the word. I have worked with Lindi for 2 years and it has been so inspiring to see the dedication she has to her team, students, community and everything DMF Youth stands for. She sees the best in everyone and her light is contagious. It has been amazing to watch her growth mindset in action and she inspires everyone to be the best version of themselves they can be! Peace Love Lindi :-)

Jean ferrari Posted over a year ago

Lindi. I'm so proud of you Your kids are so Lucky. Keep rockin’ it jean

Elizabeth Petite Posted over a year ago

I've had the pleasure of working closely with Lindi from the inception of DMF Youth. Lindi had a vision and needed help bringing that vision to life, and I've been lucky enough to help her do that. But the idea behind DMF Youth was entirely Lindi's. She is a bottomless pit of energy, enthusiasm and love. It is so obvious from just one conversation with her that she loves what she does. She has great admiration for the teaching artists, students, and everyone else involved in DMF Youth. She would never toot her own horn, but the work she does is so deserving of being celebrated!

Jennifer Manton Posted over a year ago

Lindi is the very first person that ever positively motivated me to take care of me. I met her in 2010 or 2011 when she was an instructor at Physique 57. I have been fortunate to have had lindi’s positivity and light in my life as a constant source of inspiration ever since. And when the pandemic began, it was essential. Without her and her motivation, I don’t know how I would have survived let alone actually flourished thanks to her commitment to get on Zoom and lead a group in at home barre fitness, all the while tirelessly fighting to keep her programming at DMF youth going. Watching her and the DMF team pivot to online programming was nothing short of genius. The difference that made to the children and their caretakers was remarkable. DMF Youth being in the home inspired and taught the children and their families the importance of self care and self love. The same things Lindi taught me.

Diane Sweeney Posted over a year ago

I have had the privilege of knowing Lindi BEFORE she was born, as her mother and I are lifelong friends. I’ve watched Lindi grow into the living, caring woman she is today. She has always had a gentle nature and a loving heart- especially for children. We support Lindi and her work because we firmly believe she makes the world a better place and her commitment to her students is her number 1 priority! I’m so proud of Lindi!

Monica Posted over a year ago

Lindi is truly all heart.. she is one of the most giving people I know. It’s just in her energy,she can’t help it! She turns all of her struggles into growth like led into gold and shares her wealth with the children and friends she supports. She 1000% deserves this award!!

Kristina Moore Posted over a year ago

Lindi is the best fitness instructor I’ve ever had, because she goes above and beyond the physical body and thinks about the holistic person; that she is able to share this gift with children is part of what makes her such a valuable leader!

Monica Francisco Posted over a year ago

I used to take exercise and dance classes with Lindi. She remains one of the nicest, kindest and most caring people I know. I so enjoyed being with her so much, that I sent my then teenaged twins to dance with her. No surprise, they love her too. Lindi has so much love to share with the world, especially her kids. I hope she can continue to do what she does for a very long time. The world is a brighter and better because of Lindi and her work with DMF.

Sarah Posted over a year ago

Lindi is amazing! What’s she’s done with DMF youth is such a benefit to the students in this day and age. She cares about every aspect of the program and deserves to win this award!

Christine Doyle Posted over a year ago

Lindi is a force of nature and the living embodiment of dedication to community. I've been privileged to see the effect she and her tremendous staff have on the children they serve, and there is no doubt in my mind that they gain insights into themselves and their worlds as a result. She is long overdue for recognition for the good work she has been doing for so many years. Kudos, Lindi! You're awesome!!

Colleen Sellers Posted over a year ago

Lindi is one of the most inspiring and motivating individuals around and is most worthy of this tremendous honor. She has gone above and beyond to build DMF Youth into an organization that supports and guides children who are from underserved backgrounds - providing them with life coaching skills wrapped in the guide of a fun dance workout regime!! I could go on and one but suffice to say that the DMF Youth program would greatly benefit from this recognition and I hope that Lindi is chosen!!

Debbie Cooper Posted over a year ago

I have known Lindi for many years through her teaching Barre classes and now through her creation of DMF Youth. I cannot say enough wonderful things about Lindi. I have true admiration for her passion and commitment to helping children through her program at DMF. She uses dance as a way to entice children to then participate in the life skills part of her program which empowers kids to feel good about themselves and understand how to deal with all the challenges that life brings, especially for children from under privileged homes. Lindi is the most positive person i know and loves seeing the changes that she and her teaching staff have on the children who participate in the program. This world needs more Lindi's and more programs like DMF. Lindi's impact on these children will help them become happy, productive and empowered adults. She's making the world a better place for all!

Jennifer bolanos Posted over a year ago

Lindi….Wellllllll you seee no just kidding she if the most sweetest kindest the most humble and over achiever person I’ve ever met in life.She’s known me for so long but when I had my moment Lindi was there through it all she helped find my self and helped me find my voice and for that I am foreal thankful

Sharon Nelson Posted over a year ago

Having known you all your life, you have always had the best, most selfless and giving heart. I know you are so dedicated to helping and making life better for others, so this award is very deserved. So happy for you and your sacrificial work. Wish there were more like you because the world would be a far better place!!

Katie Needham Posted over a year ago

I can’t say enough wonderful things about Lindi and the organization she has created! Truly incredible.

Emily Cornelious Posted over a year ago

Lindi is a true light to the world. DMF is an incredible program led by the selfless, kind and generous Lindi. The world is a better place with a soul like hers. If only most people had an ounce of her dedication and commitment to kids- the world would be such a better place!

Kim D’Agnese Posted over a year ago

Lindi is someone who enters your life and instantly makes it better. She has a gift which enables her to lift anyone in her presence. Her level of dedication and professionalism on all fronts is unmatched. She is incredible!

Rosemarie Scilipoti Posted over a year ago

Lindi is the best!!! Miss you!

Candace Lindner Posted over a year ago

Lindi......She is absolutely one of the most inspirational people I know. She is dedicated and passionate regarding the youth of today. She demonstrates her critical thinking and health methodologies on a daily basis...and the kids adore her!!! We need more people like Lindi in our world.

Cassie Coulas Posted over a year ago

Lindi embodies Ghandi’s quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Together with her team she is rewriting the story of underprivileged youth in NYC. The social emotional skills and dance foundation the students learn go waaay beyond the after-school class, and will undoubtedly carry these students into a healthy adulthood. As a friend, former colleague, and fitness professional with a non-profit background I will ALWAYS support DMF because their work is invaluable. This organization is so incredibly deserving!

Carrie Posted over a year ago

Congrats, Lindi!! You are a blessing

Mindi Keirnan Posted over a year ago

Lindi is the only person who ever inspired me enough to exercise consistently. Her positive energy, her empathetic nature and her knowledge of wellness inside and out is what makes her a Life Changer indeed. At 67, I've seen a lot of exercise teachers, personal trainers, physical therapists, coaches and more. Linda is unlike any of known anywhere. She welcomes, she engages and she loves from the heart. The world is better because Lindi is in it.

Holly Posted over a year ago

Lindi is a true Angel, rockstar, entrepreneur, philanthropist, loving, caring, supporting, non profit goddess! I was a small part of DMF youth in the very early days and when I tell you this woman has the drive and passion to do good, I say it with all my heart! The work Lindi and DMF youth does for our children and community is unmatched. She is a one-of-a-kind changemaker and I feel lucky to be in her orbit!

Stephanie Posted over a year ago

Lindi is an amazing and inspiring person! I am so lucky and honored to know her

Josh Posted over a year ago

Lindi does an amazing job. She has a heart of gold and is tremendously caring. Everyone who comes in contact with her is better for it.

Alex Grundleger Posted over a year ago

Lindi is honestly one of the most hard working, thoughtful, encouraging, beautiful souls I have ever met. I have seen her build DMF from the ground up and it has been amazing to witness. She has shared with me so many stories of her immense impact that will stick in my mind forever—kids that once were struggling with behavior and self esteem issues who years later are running for class president, have developed immense self esteem and are flourishing at school. She deserves this award more than any human I know.

Mary Schreck Posted over a year ago

Lindi is a force, an inspiration, and the hardest worker I know. DMF Youth is quite literally changing the world, one student at a time. I am proud to support this organization in every way I can, and I’m honored to call Lindi my friend.

Rachel Geringer-Dunn Posted over a year ago

Lindi is a selfless, phenomenal human who is deeply dedicated to her work with DMF Youth! It has been a pleasure to watch her do this work and to support her various ways over several years. As a fellow educator and former dance teacher, I additionally appreciate the challenge and value of the work she does - her impact is likely more than we can even fathom. I couldn't support Lindi more heartily!

Sarah Posted over a year ago

Lindi is the absolute best! She is an amazing teacher and person.

Nicole Golonka Posted over a year ago

As one of Lindi’s lead teachers at DMF Youth, I see her dedication, passion, and devotion to this organization and the students first hand. Her program is designed to foster the whole self. The students build their physical stamina but also learn critical life skills like how to name and navigate their big emotions. She ensures all teachers are trained in Social Emotional Health methodologies and extensive classroom management techniques, so we can guide and mentor our students to the best of our ability. She also takes a lot guiding all teachers to recognize their strengths and identify ways to become even stronger educators. DMF Youth is unlike any after school program I’ve ever seen. As a dancer, I’ve never been in a dance class so focused on mental health care and mindfulness! This is my second year at our Brooklyn school. The growth in physical stamina and understanding of Social Emotional Health curriculum that I’ve seen in my students is incredible. They know that exercise and dance can help them feel better on hard days and learned how to ask for a mindful moment when they need some quiet time on their own. Lindi truly deserves to be recognized for her dedication!

Ronnie Plasters Posted over a year ago

A long list of extraordinary adjectives describe the heart, passion, and impact of Lindi's visionary founding and leadership of DMF Youth. It is, without question, a vital asset to New York City! But, what stands out most about Lindi is her embodiment of one of Roosevelt's famous, ubiquitous quotes regarding leaders. Lindi is, indeed, in the arena. Despite the challenges of empowering youth living within systemic failures, she enters our public schools not perfectly, but humanly. She infuses all that is stripped from public education in the name of academic performance which has left so many of our future citizens without healthy bodies, hearts, and minds. In a world of grades, Lindi motivates an incredible staff to reach into the hearts of students who lead healthier lives while acquiring valuable learnings--both academically and socially. It is an impressive feat; one that requires the brilliance, resilience, and willingness that Lindi brings to the arena every day. It isn't always glamorous, but it sure is exactly what New York--indeed, the world!--needs.

Rathi Varma Posted over a year ago

I've been working with DMF for over 3 years now and I can say that I'm inspired by Lindi's actions and words to date. Her leadership quality has proven to alter my approach as a leader and teaching artist. She continues to motivate the entire staff with constant encouragement and a strong belief in all of us. You know she has changed the lives of so many students when they each show a massive growth every year. DMF Youth not only stands for dance, motivation and fitness but also how being a good human can make a huge difference in the lives of others!

Alexa Posted over a year ago

I have worked for Lindi for the past 3 years, and I have nothing but positive praise for her. Not only does she lift her staff up every single day by empowering us with the proper tools to lead, but she puts the kids of NYC first at all times. She is always thinking of new ways to help impact our students, and be that positive light in their world. The impact she has made is truly unbelievable. I can't say enough incredible things about how generous, and giving Lindi is.

Mil Posted over a year ago

As a second year DMF Youth Teaching Artist, I've worked alongside Lindi in the afterschool program and it has been nothing short of wonderful. The connection, unconditional love, patience and compassion that Lindi have with the children, has given them a sense of belonging and achievement. Lindi keeps the children engaged, utilizes their motor development skills and spatial awareness through dance and fitness. She motivates the children by employing their growth mindset through daily affirmations and craft linked activities. Lindi's dream to transforming children's lives has been more of a dream that has come true.

Mariah Soto Posted over a year ago

Hello my name is Mariah Soto and I am one of Lindi’s employees at DMF Youth. LINDI is an amazing leader, coordinator, director, mentor, teacher, all of the above! She is also an amazing person with a big heart! She gives so much to her students and staff and helps us all grow in ways that are beneficial to not only us but to the people around us that we may have an impact on. I’ve been apart of DMF Youth for two years now and I’ve seen so much growth within the children I’ve worked with through this program and also in myself as a teaching artist. My favorite thing about Lindi is her optimism and determination to help guide a child through mindfulness when they aren’t feeling so good and aren’t able to express the big feelings they feel. She helps them see the world through a different lens and helps them gain clarity with different ways they can approach situations and help regulate their own feelings during tough times. She also gives them a safe space to express themselves through movement, while also learning fun new dance moves and lessons to take with them as they grow!

Mil Posted over a year ago

I'm going into my second year working with DMF as a Teaching Artist and it has been amazing working alongside Lindi. Her unconditional love, compassion, and consistent kindness she showers amongst the children gives them a sense of belonging. In today's world that is so very important for children to have a foundation in connecting to others and to know that they belong. Lindi is heaven sent for the community of children she works with.