By Aray Rivera
Summer 2016 was one of the most memorable summers of my life.
Not only was it my first Chicago summer with the amazing festivals, events, and food, but I also did something I would have never thought I would have added to my resume: Introduce and teach the amazing world of public relations to 15 high school boys–possibly one of the most nerve-racking, yet rewarding experiences I have done thus far. Less than four months into my Public Relations and Advertising graduate program at DePaul University, and I already had the opportunity to help change the minds of young boys.
I have always enjoyed working with students. All of my work experience has been working in higher education from counseling students on applying to medical school to being the advisor for numerous student organizations. Even though I am accustomed to working with students, high school students was a whole new ballpark for me. So needless to say, there was a lot of prepping beforehand to make sure that these students would have a fun summer.
Walking through the doors of Midtown Center was like walking into the first day of high school. A new school, a new neighborhood, and unfamiliar faces. Although this time I was the instructor, which gave me a whole new level of anxiety. Meeting these bright and talented apprentices made my first day, and whole summer, much easier. They were eager to learn, and you could tell right off the bat that they were not in this program to fool around, but to learn new skills. Not only were the students amazing, but the staff, coaches, and other instructors at Midtown Center were very friendly and helpful. It was certainly a family environment. Many coaches and instructors had attended Midtown when they were younger and they spoke about it with so much pride. Long life friendships were made there, careers have started there, altruism for many originated there.
Every single morning the apprentices, the assistant instructor, Mariano Gomez, and myself would get into a circle and have a round-table discussion on current events in the news – world news, entertainment news, and even politics. In the world of PR, it is important to stay relevant and they understood that. This built content for our weekly internal newspaper at Midtown Center called The Midtown Voice. It is impressive to see young minds working together for a common goal like the newspaper. We received numerous compliments on the newspaper and how some of the content they would write was entertaining and informal to read. I could see the apprentices taking pride in their work and wanting to show their articles to their parents and friends around Midtown.
I can say with confidence that the students highlight of the summer were our weekly field trips and guest speakers. Having so many resources thanks to DePaul University’s Ron Culp and Bob Kornecki, the students had the opportunity to sit down with the communication team from both the Chicago Cubs and White Sox, meet the editorial team from Crain’s Chicago Business, and hear from the crisis communication master, Jim Motzer. And those were just a few.
As the lead instructor, I knew that it was important to be a role model for these students. Not only did I share with them my knowledge and skills in PR, but I made sure to make them feel comfortable enough where they can speak to me about any issues they had. This was an unforgettable summer and I am more than grateful for Midtown Center for Boys, Bob Kornecki, Ron Culp, and Jim Motzer for this memorable experience. And special thanks to the PRSA Foundation for funding this important program.
Aray Rivera, a native of Miami, Fla., moved to Chicago earlier this year to pursue his masters degree in Public Relations & Advertising at DePaul University. Aray is passionate about diversity and inclusion within public relations, which is why he agreed to lead the PR/Journalism apprenticeship program at Midtown Center for Boys. Aray is Vice President for DePaul’s Graduate Communication Association and is expected to graduate in fall 2018.