Event: PRSA General Session
Presenters: Derreck Kayongo, CEO, Center for Civil and Human Rights; Scott Kelly, astronaut, NASA
Recap: When public relations students and professionals speak of diversity within the field, they are referring to the variety of backgrounds, genders, races, ethnicities and ideas represented in the industry. However, at this year’s first PRSA General Session, diversity was also represented in a different way through the stories of the two presenters.
Derreck Kayongo, CEO of the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, and Scott Kelly, an astronaut at NASA, may seem to have nothing in common. Kayongo and his family fled to Kenya from civil war-torn Uganda before Kayongo came to the United States, where he began his education and later his entrepreneurship. He is the founder of the Global Soap Project, a soap recycling effort he started after discovering the amount of soap wasted by American hotels. Kayongo was shaken by this concept knowing so many individuals in his homeland whose health problems would be cured — or at least better managed — if they had access to proper sanitation products. He is now a civil and human rights activist and is currently writing his autobiography.
Scott Kelly is the New Jersey-born son of two police officers and the twin brother of a fellow astronaut. He grew up admiring his parents’ work ethic, particularly his mother overcoming the challenge of being one of the first female cops in New Jersey. By working hard, he eventually became an astronaut at NASA and has spent about 500 days in space, including 340 consecutive days aboard the International Space Station.
Both these men overcame obstacles in their lives to arrive where they are today. Below are a few lessons we can learn from Derreck Kayongo and Scott Kelly.
- As you do your work, focus on what inspires you, what gets you out of bed every morning and from where you get rejuvenated.
- The public relations profession is in a position to give back: we should not take this for granted, and we should not take this lightly.
- Choose to do the hard things — the things that challenge you — and be willing to take risks and make mistakes.
- Set lofty goals and attain them by taking small, manageable steps.
- If you can dream it, you can do it: the sky is not the limit.
Maura Fenske is a junior public relations major with a journalism minor. She serves as the Chapter president for the Waynesburg University PRSSA Chapter and as an account specialist for Student-run Firm Red Brick Communications. Maura hopes to combine her passion for public relations, writing and sports in her future career. Follow her at @mfenske87 and visit her LinkedIn.