Program Introduces Young Men to PR Careers

Midtown Center PR program participants.

Midtown Center PR program participants.

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

Aaron Westbrook, instructor

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.

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