PRSA widens drive for diversity to high schools across US

CHICAGO: The PRSA Foundation is expanding its pilot program designed to attract more minorities to PR.

CHICAGO: The PRSA Foundation is expanding its pilot program designed to attract more minorities to PR.

The effort targets high school students, exposing them to PR skills and PR pros at a time when they're making decisions about careers and college majors.

"Minorities are embarrassingly underrepresented not just in public relations, but in business in general," noted David Grossman, president of the foundation.

"We hope to make the face of PR better mirror that of society."

The program, known as the PRSA Foundation's Communications Career Academy, was tested last year in Baltimore, Dallas, Newark, NJ, Oakland, CA, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Tampa, FL. The pilot involved 750 students.

This year, Grossman is looking for other chapters around the country to take part.

PRSA chapters in those cities worked with local high school communications teachers who were teaching students such basic PR skills as news release writing. Local chapter members mentored students, guest-lectured in classes, and allowed students to view them at work.

The foundation supported the effort by developing a high school PR curriculum and by serving as a clearing house to pass along best practices among teachers in different cities. It also has set up a website, pracademy.org, to dispense information about the program and provide a forum for teachers and students.

Funding or in-kind donations for the program are coming from companies like Nike, Sears, Pepsi, AT&T, and Edelman.

"High school is a great place to start because that's where a lot of the skills you need are really being honed," he said.

Grossman runs David Grossman & Associates in Chicago. The foundation is the philanthropic arm of the PRSA.

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