Torch Gives Students a Taste of the Industry

KBS&P's Kirshenbaum Tells Why It's Important for Agencies, Media to Get Involved

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Torch, a nonprofit dedicated to providing underserved New York public high school students with intensive career training and opportunities in communications and the arts, held the eighth annual Torch Shadow Day Week 2011 late last month. High school students were invited to join advertising and media professionals during their workdays to experience what it's like to work in those professions.

More than 40 students participated in the Feb. 22–25 event, including program alumni who are now in college. They worked at such agencies as Arnold Worldwide, BBDO, Deutsch, Kaplan Thaler Group and ZenithOptimedia, and at media companies including WABC and WFAN.

'A Day at the Bazaar' by Torch participant David Shatan-Pardo
'A Day at the Bazaar' by Torch participant David Shatan-Pardo

Two participants, 17-year-old high school student David Shatan-Pardo and 19-year-old college student and Torch alum Kawana Barbour, joined employees at Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal & Partners to find out more about art direction. Barbour attends Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn and hopes to work in advertising as an art director. Shatan-Pardo, a senior at the Lab School for Collaborative Studies in Manhattan, has been accepted at Yale and wants to study art to become an illustrator.

Richard Kirshenbaum, chairman of KBS&P, says this is a program that he feels very strongly about. "Having founded the agency 23 years ago, I felt it was really time to encourage underserved teens and create a platform for more diverse voices in the creative community. There's a lot of lip service in the industry to it. At a certain point, I said I really want to get involved."

"We've been committed to working together with Torch to achieve very positive results," Mr. Kirshenbaum says. "It's something I'm very passionate about, especially when you see the kids and their work."

Torch offers students an opportunity to explore their career options and get on-the-job training in communications and the arts, including through paying summer internships. It also plans college visits for the students and works on practical skills such as resume writing and interviewing. Program participants meet weekly after school to work on projects in a variety of areas, including advertising, animation, journalism and multimedia.

Mr. Kirshenbaum began working with Torch executives Debi Deutsch and Peter Drakoulias about eight months ago. Last fall, he established a $20,000 scholarship for underserved high school students in New York. Camille Crawford, a freshman at Pace University, is the first recipient and will also serve a summer internship at KBS&P after her freshman year of college. In addition, Mr. Kirshenbaum got KBS&P parent company MDC Partners involved with a gift of $25,000 to sponsor five high school students in the Torch program each year.

"We're both so impressed with what they [Deutsch and Drakoulias] have done," he says. "This is something they've been committed to for years. The idea that we can give these talented young students an opportunity to see what it's like to work at an agency and talk about career opportunities is great.

"Very often parents who are not in the industry have a hard time understanding what we do," Mr. Kirschenbaum says. "I can give encouragement to these young people and say, 'This is not a hobby, this is something you can earn a living at.' "

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