At-risk students seek new promotional certificate

Due to the vision and focus of a small group of determined individuals, a new certificatenchor program in promotional work has launched at Santa Monica College for 25 at-risk students. To sponsor this program, SMC is partnering with PromaxBDA, a leading promotional resource within the entertainment industry, and South Bay Counseling Center (SBCC), a nonprofit organization in Los Angeles that provides career development support for low-income individuals. Dean of Workforce Development Patricia Ramos and Communications Chair Frank Dawson worked closely with PromaxBDA and SBCC to create the one-year curriculum to train at-risk students in careers that focus in film and TV promotion.

As Promax and CEO Jonathan Block-Verk states, "SBCC provides the blueprint, SMC the foundation and PromaxBDA contributed the interior design."

The funding was procured through the Every Child Foundation and a state grant. At the end of the one-year intensive program students will earn a promotional certificate for writing, editing, and producing.This is the first such program in the nation and the first round of graduates is expected to finish their studies and receive their certificates in December.

Block-Verk believes the biggest challenge ahead for these students is, "recognizing the long-term intrinsic benefits of staying in the program.  Remaining committed to something whose ultimate benefits are in the future is a challenge many students face.  I know I faced that issue, but today, expectations for immediate results and return are more intense."

Through the funding, all of the students are receiving full scholarships, including costs of equipment, fees, transportation, childcare and more.

But for some of the chosen students, the opportunity comes at a higher cost. Due to her involvement in the program, Student Jennifer Monzon tearfully admits, "My father won't even speak to me when I come home. I say ‘hello' and he just ignores me." Monzon says her family feels she should rather focus her efforts on the caretaking of family.

And for this particular group of students, the hurdles don't end there. Daveion Thompson was born to a drug-addicted mother and forced into foster care for most of his life. And Ronald Williams has been responsible for caring for his mother who has suffered and conquered several life-threatening diseases.

Williams feels that he has never experienced friendship with peers, until now.

"This has given me an opportunity to prove myself," said Shanita Murray, a student at SMC.

Stories like these are what encouraged Block-Verk to participate in such a program. "I've always been immersed in and passionate about quality education," said Block-Verk.

"Other sectors will recognize our program as a model for success so they can roll it out in other areas of the television and advertising industry."