Midtown Fall Alumni Newsletter


Leo Gomez (‘81) works now at El Milagro as a purchasing specialist and comments, "I love the smell of corn tortillas in the morning." Cesar Martinez (‘93) reports that the annual Tony Herrera-led, bow-and-arrow deer hunting expedition to Galena will take place November 5-8. Besides Tony and Cesar, participants will include Midtown grads Jacinto and Nato Herrera and Juan Moreno. We suggest that non-participants stay as far away from Galena as possible. Luis (‘93) and Nereida Perez had their third child, Penelope, on June 22, 2014, the day after her dad's birthday. Penelope joins Matthew, 10, and Catlina. 14. The family is in Chicago until the fall. Brandon Boler ('01) will be appearing in The Artistic Home's production of Lillian Hellman's Watch on the Rhine, which runs from October 5th through November 16th, Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays-Saturdays at 8pm, and Sunday's at 3pm. For more info, see theartistichome.org. The Artistic Home is located at 1376 W Grand. Randy DeVaul (‘01) graduated from Stanford in 2005 with a BA in Communications and worked for five years at Facebook, where he started customer service and helped in diversity recruiting. Returning to Chicago, he worked for an advertising firm but decided his real passion was in teaching. He is now completing his Master degree in Education at Roosevelt, plans to teach high school English, and has returned to Midtown, where he was in programs from 7th grade on, as a tutor. Christian Gauna (‘02) is recently engaged to Elizabeth Wilkie. They plan to marry next spring at St. Mary of the Angels Church. Christian is a grant processor with Dominion Lighting.

Fabian Gauna (‘03), a Notre Dame Law School grad, is a counsel for the Chicago Park District, focusing on but not limited to the labor and employer area. He comments that he is getting a wide range of experience. Tony Vaca (‘04) is engaged to marry Yaritssa Elizalde, his high school sweetheart, on July 25, 2015. Tony works as a lighting efficiency consultant for Twin Lighting. Gilberto Rivera (‘06) is finishing his MBA in Thailand this year and is involved in starting up his own business, which he hopes to continue in the US after his return. Oscar Salgado (‘06) graduated from MIT with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. "Right now I am working on an early stage start-up as a product developer. I'm not sure if this will pan out, but I'm very interested in the start-up world." Angel Diaz (‘07) married Clare Skokna at St Mary of the Angels Church on July 12. Angel is now President of Dominion Lighting in the Chicago-land area. Malik Brewley (‘08),who continues to work for Midtown part-time as a data specialist - mostly incorporating scattered paper and digital files into a master database -- has just been hired as a film editor for NCSA Athletic Recruiting, which helps student athletes produce video resumes. Malik received his undergraduate degree in TV production from Columbia College in Chicago.

Having completed his Bachelor's degree in Family and Consumer Sciences/Human Sciences at Illinois State University, Joseph Clark (‘08) is now a graduate student at Argosy University in Chicago where he studies Industrial/Organizational Psychology. Jose Gaytan (‘08), a graduate of Lane Tech, is finishing his degree in computer engineering at UIC. Victor Gaytan (‘09), also a graduate of Lane Tech, is studying accounting at Northeastern. Amal Torres (‘10) graduated from North Park in May with a degree in Exercise Science and now plans to get a second BA in Medical Studies so that he can apply to Medical School. Alex Ocon (‘12) is working an intern at Soundscape Studios helping to produce singles and albums. Efrain Sotelo (‘13) completed his first year at Marquette where he made the Dean's List in the Business program and played on an intramural basketball team that went undefeated until the playoffs.

Former Midtown journalism and writing instructor Bob Bajek has been nominated to be a Giraffe Hero for his reporting on a downstate Illinois town's possible contamination issues. The Giraffe Heroes Project is a nonprofit, "which honors the risk-takers, people who are largely unknown, people who have the courage to stick their necks out for the common good, in the US and around the world." Bob currently works for NewsLink, "a corporate communication job where I gather and write seven newsletters while traveling the country." Tutor Steve Gorski is now a Senior Associate at The Siegfried Group. Tim Mersch, who has served as a summer advisor and as an assistant instructor in the PR/Journalism apprenticeship, graduates from Miami of Ohio in December and will work as a Development Associate at MEF. Tim spent this past summer in Washington as an intern in the office of House Speaker John Boehner. Ryan Moore, a current tutor, completed his law degree at Chicago-Kent College of Law, where, among other honors, he received CALI Awards for the highest grade in Legal Writing II, Trial Advocacy I & Appellate Advocacy. He is now an Associate at Parrillo, Weiss & O'Halloran. 


We are looking ahead, of course, to celebrating our 50th anniversary next year and hope you all will be able to participate in some way. We are not a business. Our success is not measured in profits or sales or market share. Rather, it is indicated by the growth - academic, professional, personal -- of all those who have participated as students, staff, sponsors, and volunteers over the years. It is really a celebration of all those who have grown because of Midtown. We'll pass on more information about the celebration when it becomes available.

Best to you all,

Jerry Shepherd, Midtown Director on behalf of the Midtown staff:

Brian Parker, Carlos Martinez, Oscar Calderon, Mike Walsh, Arturo Baranda

Culpwrit: Program Introduces Young Men to PR Careers

by Ron Culp, 
Professional Director of the Graduate PR and and Advertising program at DePaul University

Original article can be read here.

A unique seven-week summer program aimed at increasing the number of young minority men considering public relations as a career option just wrapped up at the Midtown Center for Boys in Chicago. Judging from initial feedback, the program was a success since none of the students initially was aware of the career potential of PR, but several now are considering it as a college major.

Thanks to a grant from the PRSA Foundation and support from DePaul University, the program engaged high school sophomores, juniors and seniors in a variety of public relations activities, including publication of a weekly newsletter for Midtown students, parents and staff. Midtown Center is a nonprofit organization that provides after-school and summer enrichment programs for students and their parents. PR agency veteran and Midtown board member Bob Kornecki and I served as sponsors of the program.

The PR program's lead instructor was Aaron Westbrook, a recent graduate of DePaul's PRAD master's program. Below, Aaron reflects on his incredible summer experience. Aaron's guest post is followed by an article from one of his students, Noah Alonzo, who played an active role in writing and editing the weekly newsletter.

From Midtown to Midtown

By Aaron Westbrook

It’s 9:30 AM on June 17, 2014 and the Apprentices have all taken their seats in Room 303 of the Midtown Center for Boys. Thoughts begin to race through my mind as to whether or not I was ready; the nerves begin to kick in. I timidly approach the front of the room as it’s time to begin a summer experience of a lifetime. Just as nervous as they were to begin their apprenticeship, I was equally timid to introduce 13 young men to the Public Relations field.

Despite the first day jitters, the hard work and preparation began months ago as I began preparing a syllabus that not only the students would find fun and exciting, but one that I would have enjoyed as a young adult. Growing up, my mother was an advocate for advancing my education throughout the summer through tutoring and reading assignments. Although the classroom knowledge I developed early on was beneficial, their long term impact wasn’t sustainable. I was eager to introduce a program that not only advanced the students educational prowess, but one that would rally them around PR as an exciting and fun field to be a part of.

From day one, the apprentices were given many responsibilities throughout the summer: writing for a weekly newspaper, creating impromptu presentations, participating in team building exercises and round table discussions; amongst a variety of other weekly assignments. However, each time they were given these responsibilities, they not only fulfilled them… they often times exceeded expectations. Starting the first week, these young men began writing, brainstorming, and welcoming new ideas and concepts for their summer apprenticeship program. Many people could have watched the students develop the Midtown Voice, the weekly newspaper for the Midtown Center, but I believed that being actively involved in the creation of the paper was crucial to advancing the success of the program.

Introducing new processes like weekly blog assignments, brainstorming and team building exercises, coupled with daily news round table discussions to centralizing news articles to a single online platform, proved to advance the students admiration for continuous learning and interest in the PR profession. Although my passion for PR was evident from day one, reinforcement from successful professionals was by far the most impactful addition to the program over the previous summers’. From Edelman to the Cubs, San Jose Group to Crain’s; the students witnessed PR at work firsthand.

Despite my educational achievements and graduating with my Master’s Degree in Public Relations & Advertising just two days prior to starting the program, this experience has truly been the most challenging yet fulfilling opportunity I’ve ever been a part of. In a Leadership course at DePaul University, taught by Ron Culp, I was introduced to the concept of transformational leadership. Being briefed with this concept of changing the culture showed me that introducing new ideas, and inspiring creativity would be beneficial to co-creating possibilities.

I can’t put into words how inspiring this opportunity was, but I can certainly say it has impacted me immeasurably. As I transition from Chicago to New York City (Midtown Manhattan) to work with Ketchum as the recipient of the coveted KEPRRA award, these 13 young men taught me life lessons and advanced my leadership skills in ways unimaginable; and for that I am forever grateful.

Communicator of the Future

By Noah Alonzo

Midtown’s main goal is to have young children develop into fine gentlemen with fulfilling careers. One career option that Midtown offers is within the Public Relations and Communications profession. This year’s apprenticeship gave high school students the opportunity to develop their personal writing and analytical skills, while gaining actual experience in public relations.

Before going to Midtown, I was already studying creative writing and wanted to pursue that major in college. I had also been experimenting with writing poems, short stories, and even film screenplays on my own. I wanted to be a freelance writer in the future, but I was worried about not being financially stable.

Last year, Midtown offered a journalism class where students, including myself, would learn about the journalism field and get paid for writing weekly papers.  Upon joining the program, I wasn’t convinced that I wanted to do journalism, in fact I thought about being an English teacher instead.  This year, my new “employer” Aaron Westbrook wanted to continue the tradition of making weekly papers but introduced a whole new field of communications: Public Relations.

I didn’t have a clue what Public Relations was. Aaron happens to be a master’s graduate in PR at DePaul University and was offered the job at Midtown by his former instructor Ron Culp. Culp is one of many influential people involved with the Public Relations and Communication program and made it possible to not only get paid for our hard work but also give us the opportunity to learn about the PR field.

This program allowed us to have conversations with professors and executives in the Public Relations field, coupled with visits to the most respected PR firms in the city of Chicago. This experience educated me about job opportunities and has motivated me to pursue a career in Public Relations.

Noah Alonzo is a senior at Rowe-Clark Math & Science Academy in Chicago. He enjoys writing both new stories and screenplays. See some great photos from the program at Faces of Midtown.  

In addition to a tour of Wrigley Field arranged by Kevin Saghy, the Midtown Boys visited the Chicago offices of Edelman and the San Jose Group. They also heard from a large number of PR and academics, including:  Don Ingle, Pepe Maldonado, Kenon Brown, Luis Agostini, Todd Behme, Joseph Tateoka, George San Jose, Mark Revermann, John LaSage and Mike Devlin. Thanks to everyone who made this program a huge success.

Metro Alumna Celia Gonzalez interviewed for EngineerGirl

On the heels of the very first Engineering Apprenticeship hosted this summer at Metro Achievement Center for girls, sponsored by The Tellabs Foundation, we knew Metro had an amazing alumna in the engineering field.  Celia Gonzalez, now 36, reflects on her time at Metro and shares her journey becoming a career engineer.  

"The EngineerGirl website is designed to bring national attention to the exciting opportunities that engineering represents for girls and women...The website is a service of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and grew out of the work of the NAE Committee on the Diversity of the Engineering Workforce."- from EngineerGirl.org 

Describe what you do in your current work situation? 
In my current role, I manage a team of network provisioning design engineers that provide network provisioning services for one of our major customers, ATT, and for smaller international customers to enhance their network and improve their key performance indices.

Why did you choose engineering? 
Two things: (1) My dad was an immigrant who helped the rest of our family establish their careers, most of them in engineering. He always worked in engineering jobs since he was ten-twelve years old, but never went to school for that. I wanted to help realize the dream had. I became the first female engineer in my family that I'm aware of.

(2) My high school science teacher asked a very simple question, "Have you ever thought about engineering?" She believed in me and helped me enroll in a small internship that gave me hands-on, research-oriented, and interactive exposure to engineering. They made engineering something fascinating, fun, and something a high schooler could understand.

Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have? 
Thanks to Metro Achievement Center for girls in Chicago, I received help applying to college, and I applied all that I learned...the extra-curricular classes, the character education. They take a genuine interest in each person and helped me gain access to scholarships in engineering and I enrolled at the Illinois Institute for Technology, completing a B.A. in Computer Engineering with a minor in Business Management. I enjoyed working with people and resolving issues. After interning at Sara Lee, I spent two summers as an intern at the company that became Alcatel-Lucent, where I have been now full-time for 14 years.

What challenges have you met and conquered in your pursuit of an engineering career? 
I once co-led a consulting project that involved travel to China to lead the deployment of wireless services. It was an amazing cross-cultural experience. Then in 2005, I helped build the network for the first technology in the Universal Mobile Telecommunications System, also known as UMTS, or 3G. I managed the project in Salt Lake City, Utah, and it was an intense time where we worked around the clock and it tested my patience, but looking back, I'm proud of it. I learned to work with different people, collaborate in difficult situations, and depend on a strict timeline. I'm proud because there were so many moving parts, and I love when things are complicated that have to be simplified with processes in place.

What are your short-term (1-2 years) and long-term (10+ years) goals? 
A few years ago, I switched into business, revenue, and quote management, and I currently serve in a role that requires a background in engineering along with understanding how to bid, provide the price, and present the scope of the work. I'd like to continue climbing in this same company, pursue my MBA, and lead a larger organization, with a goal to work in France, because that's where our company is based.

What (or who) had/has the greatest influence on your life choices? 
I'm thrilled that places like Metro Achievement Center are bringing an Engineering Apprenticeship to girls from inner-city communities. There are lots of young people who would like to pursue these opportunities but just don't know how. All it takes is a simple question like my teacher asked, "Have you ever thought about it?" Nobody else tells them, so they don't know.

Describe something about your life outside of work: your hobbies, or perhaps a favorite book. 
All of my family and friends know that I am passionate about health and fitness. If there was one book I would recommend, I suggest to read Sugar Blues by William Duffy. It will make a profound impact on your health long term and I encourage you to share it with everyone. I enjoy endurance sports such as long distance running and triathlons and occasionally compete in race . I think it's important to set goals for yourself and set a date to achieve them. There are good days and there are tough days, but they are never impossible.

I also practice yoga daily and recently completed my 200 hr certification in power Vinyasa yoga. The last class I taught was at the spur of the moment to a small group of health practitioners on the sand while facing the beautiful beachfront of Acapulco. My goal is to be a bi-lingual yoga teacher that brings health and peace to people in Chicago and to the places I travel. 

Thank you for your support! 

Re-posted from EngineerGirl.org. To view the article on their website and to learn more about EngineerGirl and the National Academy of Engineering, please click here.