PRSA Grant Funds Diversity in Public Relations Initiative

For the third consecutive year, the PRSA Foundation has awarded a grant to DePaul University and Midtown Center for Boys 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 this program, students produce several issues of a newspaper called the Midtown Voice, which promotes the activities of the Midtown Educational Foundation. The Midtown Educational Foundation in Chicago serves at-risk children ages 8 through 18 through after-school and summertime enrichment programs that combine academics with character education. Public relations professionals and DePaul faculty assist in facilitating the program by introducing students to variety of topics within public relations, such as crisis communications, media relations and writing.

Aray Rivera (back row) with public relations apprenticeship students and assistant. Photo courtesy of Yara Ismail.

Aray Rivera (back row) with public relations apprenticeship students and assistant. Photo courtesy of Yara Ismail.

This year’s program was led by Aray Rivera, a DePaul graduate 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.The newspaper includes events from Midtown as well as community events and news.

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 learn how to write about different opinions — and formulate his own — after learning all sides of a story. He also said this summer has helped him truly understand the work that goes into publishing a newspaper.

Additionally, the students were given opportunities to explore the city and interview public professionals for their stories. Junior Danny Garcia was able to interview 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.

More than 90 percent of high school students at Midtown graduate and go on to be enrolled in college, and the public relations apprenticeship helps introduce the 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 PRSSA Chapter. Follow her on twitter @YaraIsmail_ or on LinkedIn.

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