Meet the Emma L. Bowen Foundation. A gala dinner was recently held on June 24, 2014 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City celebrating its 25th anniversary as a diversity pipeline program for the media industry.

The late Emma L. Bowen was a community activist and fighter for justice. The non-profit Emma L. Bowen Foundation was founded in 1989, for targeted minority youth interested in developing careers in the media industry through an annual, paid work-study. The program features on-the-job training, mentoring, academic achievement, college scholarships and professional development.

Students in the program work for partnered media companies during summers and school breaks. In so doing, these young adults have the opportunity to rotate to a variety of functional areas over the course of four summers, in an effort to gain experience and mentors, followed by a mandatory annual conference in New York City each summer. The program follows students in their senior year of high school until they graduate from college.

My own Emma Bowen Foundation experience instilled in me the strength and humility to graciously accept opportunities. In my own personal case, the Foundation also taught me to face the reality that I’d have to tap into that tenacity to create my own opportunities, as most things worth having aren’t handed to you—work, push, crack open glass ceilings, and build new doors after having any shut in your face.

Sandra D. Rice, the Senior VP of the Emma Bowen Foundation’s Eastern Region and National Recruitment, shared with EBONY many challenges that may ring true to other woman of color in this industry.

“I think the success that I’ve had has come because of the challenges I’ve had,” says Rice. “That success stems from being able to help young people in their challenges because of what I’ve gone through. I think that women of color in any industry who are without a mentor or a supporter championing them [can] feel lost. Because on some level, you’re alone and you have to find your way to get along and be accepted. Being a person of color, we know that we have to reach back. We have to help people.”

Rice continues: “We just want to make sure that the dreams and the opportunities collide. We want to make sure students come in with the opportunities they are seeking and are able to find them. We make sure that students are fulfilled, and they don’t take this unique opportunity lightly.”

As a recent graduate from this program, I’ve learned that success is not just a job placement or a brag-worthy GPA. It’s a strong foundation, creativity matched with a “can do” attitude, love, family, and a levelheaded mode of operation that comes with time, support, faith and self-inventory.

Approximately 200 students throughout the country participate in the Emma Bowen program each year, and many of the foundation’s nearly 500 graduates have successfully transitioned to full-time positions through the broadcast and media industry or in relative fields. With help from their corporate sponsors, the Foundation is able to serve up brilliant students of color ripe, ready and polished. Armed with an academic criterion and strong communal roots, Emma Bowen students and graduates inevitably add a certain richness of flavor to nationwide corporations.

For more info, visit www.EmmaBowenFoundation.com.

Eeshé White

All photos by Steve Fenn