High school students from Bronx Envision Academy recently visited the offices of Drury Design for a day of career exposure and a creative, iterative session designing a pitch for their school’s Evening of Excellence Awards. It was the second visit between BEA students and the Memory Makers at Drury.
When the students arrived at Drury they were greeted by CWP Executive Director Michele Kotler, who asked if the students had ever been to an office before. Almost all the students hesitantly raised their hands, thinking she meant the principal’s office. After they cleared that up, Michele shared her story of not having had the experience of being at a corporate office until well after high school. And that she hoped the Drury visit might inspire the students to seek jobs in various creative industries.
The students then broke into small groups to tour the Drury offices, speaking with members of the sales, advertising and partnerships, finance, production, and copywriting teams.
Two students, Jesus from the Dominican Republic and Omar from Honduras, who are primarily Spanish speaking, hung back with Joel Berrios, CWP’s Development Manager, who helped translate. They spoke with the copywriting team, and then visited the partnership department, where they met Dorothy Carmona, Drury Book Maker, a skilled Finance and Production liaison, who had stopped by to drop off some documents. She introduced herself to Jesus and Omar and spoke in Spanish about her experience immigrating to New York. The energy in the room began to shift immediately. Jesus and Omar began to ask Dorothy questions about her role in finance and production, how she was hired, and if she liked what she did at Drury.
Dorothy joined Jesus and Omar and Joel as they headed to the production department. The students became even more engaged, asking questions about the processes of creating a commercial. Omar, interested in music production, asked specifically about the computer programs they used for sound engineering and mixing.
Danny Bellini, Drury Action Maker, who is highly skilled in video production, walked them through the art of creating a video with different digital cameras, sound mixing, voice-overs, and animations. The students connected with the tech immediately, comparing some of the pro applications to editing apps they use for social media posts.
Once they finished their tour of the departments, the BEA students gathered in a conference room to get hands-on experience developing a project for a live event, led by Dru Cutler, Drury Model Maker.
Dru explained that they would soon be joined by their client and that it would be the students’ job to sell an event idea to the client. He reminded the students to keep in mind the questions Who? What? Why? Where? and When? while speaking to their client to get the basic information about the event they would be producing.
When their client joined the meeting via Zoom, the students were surprised to see their principal. Principal Shu introduced herself while Dru settled the students and refocused their attention to their task, asking them to respect their limited time with their client since they needed to gather as much insight as possible for the event.
One student volunteered to record notes to keep track of everything required for the event. The other students started by asking when and where the event would take place and what it was for. They were shocked and excited when Principal Shu explained that, if she hired them, they would be producing the Evening of Excellence Awards, an annual school event.
Knowing that this hands-on exercise was becoming a real project leading to an actual event, some students began to lead the client conversation. Students filled the board with information about the event, such as budget, location, time, number of attendees, and the theme and general vibe. As they wrapped up the call, Principal Shu let the group know that she looked forward to their next conference call and hearing what the students envisioned for the Evening of Excellence.
After lunch, during which the students had a chance to chat informally with the Drury team, students returned to the conference room and began to bounce around ideas for the event.
As students tossed out ideas, Dru encouraged them to keep in mind the location, budget, and who would be attending the event. One student wanted to bring the event to a venue like Madison Square Garden but reconsidered when they saw the budget. As they gathered more detailed ideas such as theme and colors for the event, type of music and food, students began to group the ideas into four main categories: activities, communications, content, and logistics.
Drury staff members observed the brainstorm session and commented on how well these students were doing and acknowledged the aptitude some had for roles similar to those at Drury. While some students were drawn to the production aspects, others seemed a good fit with sales as they found ways to convince their peers to follow their vision for the event.
Students broke into small groups and chose a section of the event to explore further. Each group had 15 minutes to develop and illustrate their vision.
Jesus and Omar took on activities and began to create an outline for changing their school auditorium into a dance floor. They included ideas for lighting, DJ booth, and a space where the students and parents could bust down to bachata, a style of social dance that originated in the Dominican Republic.
Then each group presented their ideas to the rest of their classmates, making minor edits to pull each section together before they pitched their event plan to the client.
The students regrouped and welcomed back their client. The breakout groups took turns articulating their vision for the night, receiving client feedback throughout. The students reviewed the client notes and, where necessary, made adjustments to their plans. Some students changed a proposed photobooth to a step and repeat with props, while others remained confident they could make their ideas work, such as installing a giant disco ball over the auditorium.
Principal Shu was so impressed with the options provided she decided to hire the students to produce the school event. Some of the students were suddenly hit with the realization of having to produce and run this event. Others immediately began rethinking their bigger ideas, like nixing the giant disco ball.
The students were visibly proud of having sold their first idea as their visit to Drury was wrapping up. Some explained that they could see themselves doing that type of job for a living, while others acknowledged that they had never been to a type of office like Drury’s before.
One student exclaimed that it would be a long commute from their home to Drury every day for work. Others boldly asked Jill Drury, Mission Maker who integrates Drury’s vision into processes that nurture talent and inspire a creative team, to hire them in the future and gathered business cards from staff.
“At Bronx Envision Academy,” says Principal Shu, “we want our students to have access to a world of creative possibilities. We endeavor to prepare them to be future leaders whose ideas continually improve our city and community. Visiting the Drury team in their offices allowed BEA students to see how creative professionals collaborate and innovate. Their visit also involved our students taking the lead to plan our biggest family event, returning in spring 2024 after a pandemic-related hiatus. Their ideas were powerful, and the Drury team helped them to quickly bring their ideas into focus.”