PRKent and Obama’s Education Goals

Chased the treadmill again this morning. And not because of the temperature. It’s mild in NE Ohio: around 50 at 5 a.m. But the wind is gusting at around 40 mph — and don’t we always run into the wind? Oh, well. It gave me the chance to catch up on the news. And one of the big stories is Obama’s budget — and his plans for education.

And there is a relationship between Obama’s goals for education and a public relations campaign currently under way by students at Kent State. Give me a paragraph or two and I’ll get back to the PRKent story.

First, I have no clue as to whether Obama is taking the correct path to fixing our economy or getting us ready for an era of green jobs and so on. But I know this. He is absolutely correct about the critical need to improve education — and improve it so young people can succeed in today’s competitive world economy and rapidly changing workplace.

By the time it takes me to write and post these comments — about an hour — around 300 children in the United States will have made the decision to drop out of high school. That’s an average of 7,000 a day — more than a million a year. That’s a crisis — and Obama and many others know it.

He also knows that even a high school education is not enough these days — not as we continue the march (ready or not, right or not) from an industrial-based to a knowledge-based economy. Here’s what the Prez told Congress earlier this week:

In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity – it is a pre-requisite.

Right now, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma. And yet, just over half of our citizens have that level of education. We have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation. And half of the students who begin college never finish.

This is a prescription for economic decline, because we know the countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow. That is why it will be the goal of this administration to ensure that every child has access to a complete and competitive education – from the day they are born to the day they begin a career.

This is an ambitious goal; it’s a complex problem and challenge that stretches from the classroom to the living room of just about everyone in this country. And federal money will help — but it won’t be the final answer.

OK. Here is where PRKent comes in. Middle school and high school students need to be engaged — they need role models — they need mentors — they need advice — they need some assurance that a commitment to education will eventually help them succeed — and with costs of a college education escalating, they need some realistic plan and idea about paying for it. And importantly, they need this insight, information and perspective as soon as possible.

The Kent public relations students have designed and are implementing a program aimed at this type of engagement. Admittedly, it’s limited in scope — but like many activities under way thoughout our country now,  it could serve as a model if successful. And small model programs replicated throughout the country — such as Year-Up and STRIVE — get big results.

Five Kent State public relations students have planned and are currently implementing College: RockIt! — a grassroots campaign designed to raise awareness of the importance of early college preparation and the value of a degree among middle school students and parents.

Rebecca Odell, one of the students involved in the campaign, says: “In today’s economy, a college education is more important than ever. We want middle school students and their parents to realize the value of a college degree and early college preparation and the range of available financial resources.”

And here’s from a news release, College: Rockit! Campaign Blasts Off:

College: Rockit! is part of the Bateman competition, a national contest encouraging groups of public relations students to research, plan and implement a PR campaign for a real-world client.  Bateman is sponsored by the Public Relations Student Society of America, and the 2009 client is the Consumer Bankers Association. The project focuses on promoting the CBA’s educational outreach program, College Bound Aid.

More specifics about College: RockIt! are available at

OK. Here’s the full disclosure. I was until the end of the last school year a member of the public relations faculty at Kent State. I know the five students involved in this project — and attended a meeting with them early in the semester when they were beginning to plan the campaign. And I hope they win the Bateman competition. I have no idea what other PR programs do with something like this. But it strikes me that Kent’s campaign has both solid strategy and implementation going for it.

More importantly, I know these kind of small, personal programs work if they engage the right audiences with the right messages. And many times middle school and high school teachers just don’t have the time or resources to do this. Many national organizations now are working to help businesses and others engage more effectively with educators and policy makers.

So I hope you will take a minute and visit the College: RockIt! site. I’m sure the students would welcome your comments about the campaign.

And the next time I get an e-mail from Barack, I’ll reply and let him know that helping middle and high school students succeed will involve some big thinking and some big bucks. But it will also involve some role models, mentoring and personal engagement on the part of a whole lot of people in this country. Maybe he will want to take a look at what PRKent is doing.


One response to “PRKent and Obama’s Education Goals

  1. Thanks for your support and recognition. I sat in on a class room presentation and it was a pleasure watching the 7th grade students using music and art to explore cool careers and college plans. This creative, personal approach was very effective.

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