By Terrence McDaniel
Before the summer of 2015, if you were to ask me to imagine the Midtown Center for Boys I would have drawn a blank. So, when I was invited to become the Lead Instructor for the Midtown PR/Journalism Apprenticeship Program, it was that absence of preconceived knowledge that allowed me to paint my own picture. I was convinced that the person I was becoming would directly influence the time I would spend at Midtown. Even before I knew any of my students I decided that they deserved 100% of my effort and attention. Why? Because they are 100% of the future.
I grew up in a single-parent home, raised by my mother. She did a great job, however, hindsight is 20/20. One thing I did not develop in my life until the age of 23 was a sense of vision, it was important that my class at least be exposed to the concept.
Turns out, my class had a vivid imagination. There were 16 boys ranging from 10th to 12th graders. Ages 15 to 17, most of these young men were solid on the direction they wished for their lives. I was honored to have such a bright group. There were a few that wanted to be professional athletes, a few did not know, and the rest of the room filled with future stock brokers, PR professionals and writers. It was my mission to strengthen the vision of their lives while also exposing them to the career options that rest in the Public Relations/Advertising Industry.
The Midtown Center for Boys is an awesome place for young men to develop. The facility is filled with welcoming people that only have the best interest of the students in mind. There is nothing like the feeling of being a part of something bigger than yourself, Midtown was this and more. I felt at home. When I think of home, I think of peace. There was a progressive stillness that accompanied every footstep, handshake, and laugh within the Midtown Center, especially in room 303 (our room). My group had personality, and that is exactly what we needed to accomplish the big goal we had staring us square in the face.
Before I met anyone in my class, they all knew that we had the task of producing 6 issues of the center’s internal newspaper, The Midtown Voice. With the help of the assistant instructor, journalist Lavell Gardner, a 2014 graduate of Dominican University, we accomplished our goal and learned a bunch about each other in the process. As one could imagine, there are several needed positions to produce a newspaper. To get a feel for each role, the class picked then rotated where they would serve. From conception to production, it was exciting and rewarding to see students gravitate to specific areas of interest.
Vision was key, and planning was the door. What rested on the other side was joy in the completion of each issue. There is a quote that says, “If you do not know where you are going, where ever you start will take you there.” What seems like a lifetime ago, my house and everything in it burned to the ground, if I did not first see where I wanted to end up, I would not have been able to determine how to get there. There were two students that previously worked on the newspaper the year before, the rest of the class warmed up to the monumental task after hearing past stories and reviewing past issues. Giving them a vision of what was to come allowed us to set goals to manifest our desired outcome. The newspaper was a hit, and with each issue our class strengthened in collective self-awareness to the mistakes made. With each issue we grew better as a team, and learned together that one great secret to success in life is paying attention to the details.
As the lead, it was important to pass down not just PR/journalism knowledge, but also practical wisdom and knowledge that would not necessarily be found in a textbook. The sharing of leadership insights via myself, the assistant instructor and guest speakers would be the highlight of my summer; however, I am quite sure the students would say their highlights were the field trips. In the span of our seven weeks together, we visited PR agencies, Wrigley Field, and a publishing company. I am excited that The Midtown Center for Boys has changed my story from not having an example to being that example to follow. It was an honor to serve.
Terrence McDaniel is a in his second year of grad school in the Public Relations and Advertising Program at DePaul University, which actively supports this PR/journalism program that is made possible through a grant from the PRSA Foundation. To read more on this fantastic group of young men, please visit Faces of Midtown. Here you can read their personal bios as well as each issue of the Midtown Voice.