PRSA Grant Funds Diversity in Public Relations Initiative
by Yara Ismail
For the third consecutive year, the PRSA Foundation has awarded a grant to DePaul University and Midtown Educational Foundation (MEF) to encourage Chicago minority high school students to pursue a career in public relations or journalism through a seven-week intensive apprenticeship.
As part of the apprenticeship, students at the Midtown Center for boys write and produce six issues of an eight-page newspaper called the Midtown Voice. The paper features interviews with guest speakers, stories on educational field trips (to Crain’s Chicago Business, for example), and national news with a local twist. Public relations professionals and DePaul faculty assist in facilitating the program by introducing students to a variety of PR practices, such as crisis communications, media relations, research and news writing.
This year’s program was led by Aray Rivera, a DePaul grad student.
Rivera said the most rewarding part of the program is being able to work on the newspaper. Students are given different topics to research and write about for each issue.
Aaron Vazquez, an incoming sophomore, enjoyed the structure of the program and how much he was able to learn. Vazquez said he was able to write about different opinions — and formulate his own — after learning all sides to a story. He also said the summer experience helped him truly understand the work that goes into publishing a newspaper.
Additionally, the students enjoyed opportunities to explore the city and interview public relations professionals for their stories. Junior Danny Garcia interviewed John Edelman, head of global citizenship at Edelman, about sustainability and energy efficiency. Garcia said the program helped him learn how to research topics he did not know about in an in-depth way.
Summer apprenticeships are an integral part of a comprehensive college orientation program at Midtown Center which combines academics with character education. For the past 17 years, 100 percent of high school seniors have graduated and enrolled in college. The public relations apprenticeship helps introduce students to the possibility of pursuing a career in the communications field.
Yara Ismail is a junior studying public relations and advertising at DePaul University in Chicago. She is a member of the PRSSA Industry News Subcommittee and the vice president of professional development for DePaul's Chapter. Follow her on twitter @YaraIsmail_