By Sherri Killam-Williams
Special to TelevisionWeek
More students than ever before are getting a leg up in the broadcasting and cable industries, thanks to the Emma L. Bowen Foundation.
The program currently enrolls 220 junior and senior high school students, who receive internships of up to five years. Interns not only earn a salary, but also receive scholarship funds equal to what they earn. Internships begin in a student’s junior or senior year of high school and continue through college.
Phylis Eagle-Oldson, the foundation’s president and CEO, lists a couple of reasons for the increase of 87 students this year.
“Most of our existing partners added new students in addition to the slots they already had, and several new corporate partners joined the program,” she said. “I think they are beginning to see the value of the program and the quality of the candidates coming into the work force.”
Bowen Foundation interns work for several summer semesters with a particular company rather than serve a single-semester internship.
“It gives them a real advantage when they start jobs,” Ms. Eagle-Oldson said. “They’re more confident and they have had all of this exposure over the four to five years they have put into the program.”
Emma Bowen, a Harlem community activist who pursued fairness and inclusiveness in media for minorities, co-founded in 1989 the Foundation for Minority Interests in Media, which was renamed the Emma L. Bowen Foundation. She also founded Black Citizens for a Fair Media and served as its president. Ms. Bowen died in 1996.
The Bowen Foundation is supported through grants and industry partnerships and is one of the beneficiaries of the Walter Kaitz Foundation. The Kaitz Foundation’s longtime goal has been much the same as the Bowen Foundation’s-to encourage minority leadership in the cable industry.
The Kaitz Foundation supports Bowen’s Link Mentoring Program, which brings together students and industry representatives. This year 18 students and 15 mentors met in Atlanta and reunions were held for students in the 2003 and 2004 classes.
Through the years the students’ areas of study have expanded beyond work in front of or behind the camera to include business, human resources, sales and engineering.
“It’s very hard to break into that kind of competitive market. If you don’t have experience or mentors, you can be standing on the outside looking in for a long time. [The Emma Bowen Foundation] helps students get experience and solves that,” Ms. Eagle-Oldson said.
“They’re not getting in because they are a person of color. They’re just getting the door opened and getting the opportunities other folks have. They still have to do the work.”