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As Sandy Dawkins sees it, she owes her education, career choice and most of her work experience to Boston's Ad Club Foundation.

Ms. Dawkins, a senior at Boston University's School of Communications, got her first job through the foundation; she interned at Arnold Communications, Boston, as a teen-ager.

Afterward came experience in the promotions department of a radio station and then at Polaroid Corp., minority communications firm Colette Phillips Communications and PR shop Agnew, Carter, McCarthy.

"Ninety to 95% of my resume I have achieved through this program," says the 23-year-old Jamaican woman.


She does not overlook the foundation's contribution to her schooling: They've paid for it.

For most of the past decade, the Ad Club Foundation, part of the Advertising Club of Greater Boston, has been steering minority students like Ms. Dawkins into advertising and public relations in an effort to diversify an industry that its own practitioners say has lagged in hiring people of color.

The Boston program is one of many operated through local ad clubs around the country. Clubs affiliated with the American Advertising Federation are encouraged to start diversity programs as part of AAF's national diversity efforts. Boston's is cited as among the most successful.


Founded in 1987 as the Ad Club Charitable Trust, Boston's Ad Club Foundation approaches workforce diversity from three venues, says Juliette C. Mayers, exec director: programs, internships and scholarships for young people. It helps companies recruit and retain minorities through a resume bank. It tries to introduce change into company cultures, sharing information about rapidly changing demographics, and trains industry leaders to understand the benefits of hiring a diverse workforce.

It's been neither a quick fix nor an easy one.

"I don't view it as anything but long-term," says Ms. Mayers, 33, who joined the Ad Club Foundation in August after several years at the Bank of Boston and GE Capital. "Diversity and getting people to live it and integrate it in their lives and business is an education process and people are at different parts of the education continuum."

The foundation's flagship program is Advertising Opportunities (AdOP), an 18-week after-school program that exposes Boston Public School high schoolers to advertising, marketing and communications.

The minority students are taught by professionals and are required to develop ad campaigns. Top-notch seniors can apply for a paid summer internship, as can college students. The foundation placed 30 interns in 27 companies last summer, Ms. Mayers said.


Mylissa Tsai, an account rep for Lois Paul & Partners, a high-tech public relations agency in Burlington, Mass., is an AdOp grad, as is Ms. Dawkins. Ms. Tsai, 23, says the program opened doors for her: in her case, she netted an internship at Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, Boston.

Ms. Tsai got a full scholarship to Boston University courtesy of the foundation, which also awards scholarships to students at the Massachusetts College of Art and Emerson College.

In recent years, the foundation has shifted strategy to work from top management on down. It recently started a Diversity Leadership Program that focuses directly on company CEOs, providing them the resources to develop plans for change.

Three Boston-area companies are now on board, says Ms. Mayers, who envisions showing other Boston-area businesses through example that diversity in advertising and marketing staffs works.

"A lot of people are not convinced that demographic changes warrant a change in their behavior," says Ms. Mayers. "And some companies are saying their clients are not pushing them to do this, so why should they?"


The foundation's work has garnered it recognition locally and nationally and helped it raise an endowment of $1.3 million.

"Boston is, without a doubt, one of the most progressive and effective organizations to advance diversity in any industry," says Heide Gardner, manager of diversity and strategic programs for the American Advertising Federation, which has given the foundation its first-place diversity award the last three years. "In many ways, Boston has been a role model for the rest of us."

"We have raised consciousness; we have provided resources for people who wanted to explore these issues; we introduced a ton of kids to the agencies," says Elizabeth Graham Cook, president of the Boston ad club. "We climbed at least to the base camp of Mount Everest."

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