Pushing Diversity in Ad Sector

Richard Kirshenbaum says he wants to see his industry look less like the days of the television show "Mad Men," where white men ruled the advertising world.

To that end, the advertising entrepreneur is creating a scholarship to support diversity in advertising through the Torch program, an organization that provides career training and programs in the arts and communications for underserved New York City high school students.

Camille Crawford, a freshman at Pace University, will be the first recipient of the $20,000 scholarship and will also receive a summer internship at KBS+P, Mr. Kirshenbaum's advertising firm, after her freshman year of college.

KBS+P parent company MDC Partners will match the gift with $25,000 to sponsor five high school students in the program each year.

"If you watch 'Mad Men' you can see how it was through the '50s, advertising companies were almost like investment banks," says Mr. Kirshenbaum, who started his firm 23 years ago. He says he came into the field as one of the first generation of men who worked for the first generation of female executives. "As demographics shift, we need to have creative voices that are representative of these changes."

In a digital world where cameras and art supplies can run students and parents thousands of dollars, he says not everyone can easily afford to jump into the field.

He says he wanted to give a "360-degree scholarship, which in addition to money will give kids the access and experience to help people get real jobs out of college."

The Torch program begins working with students as high school sophomores, engaging them in workshops and projects throughout the year. The program matches students up with summer internships and helps them apply for college.

"Our mission is clear: We give kids exposure, experience and access to jobs in the communications in the arts with an eye toward creating diversity in the work force," says Peter Drakoulias, a corporate strategy consultant who founded Torch in 1999.

As a volunteer hockey coach, he had helped a number of students he coached find summer internships in advertising and communications.

"One of those students said, 'I never knew you could get paid for doing something you want to do," he says. "They're all consumers of advertising, film and journalism but don't know that there are real jobs behind it."

Opening their eyes to these jobs helped to change the entire trajectory of these children's lives, he says. Now, 98% of the students who go through the Torch program graduate from college.

"We tell our kids, even though the reference usually goes over their heads, that it's like the Eagles song 'Hotel California': 'You can check out anytime you'd like but you can never leave," Mr. Drakoulias says. "We stick with them through high school until after they graduate college and help them get jobs."

Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A2

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