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Santa Monica College Launches Innovative Program for At-Risk Youth  

By Lookout Staff

January 4, 2011 -- Two dozen at-risk youths became the first such group in the nation to take part in a program launched Monday that prepares them for a lucrative career creating promotional spots for television shows and films.

Each of the students in the Promo Pathway program at Santa Monica College (SMC) received full scholarships to cover the fees, equipment, transportation and childcare to participate in the program, college officials said.

At the end of the one-year program -- which is a partnership with the South Bay Center for Counseling (SBCC) and with PromaxBDA, an association of broadcast promotion and marketing professionals -- the graduates could land jobs that pay between $50,000 to $80,000 a year, officials said.

"I'm tremendously excited about this new program," said Frank Dawson, chair of the SMC Communication Department and a former promotional writer/producer at CBS and NBC. "This is a great opportunity for the college and the students who will have a shot at getting some great jobs in the industry."

The program grew out of efforts by PromaxBDA to recruit young people from high-risk areas of Los Angeles into the field by using SBCC's Career Pathways Program for low-income individuals as its model.

PromaxBDA formed an advisory board of top professionals in broadcast media and entertainment and studied the feasibility of starting such a program, said Jonathan Block-Verk, PromaxBDA president and chief executive officer.

SBCC and PromaxBDA tapped SMC to provide the training and help design the special curriculum to prepare individuals for entry-level positions in promo departments.

The 25 students, 14 of whom are already at SMC, were chosen from among 308 applicants. The finalists, which were chosen based on interviews, demonstrations of creativity, and a portfolio review, come from such high-risk areas as Compton, Wilmington and East Los Angeles, according to college officials.

"This program will help these young people understand there's a future in creative ability," Block-Verk said. "They can continue to do graffiti or turn their skills into what could be high-paying careers."

As long as the students apply themselves, they will have jobs waiting for them in the industry at the end of the training, Block-Verk said.


"They can continue to do graffiti or turn their skills into what could be high-paying careers." Jonathan Block-Verk

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