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This article by Michele Alperin was prepared for the February 27, 2008 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved. For the complete calendar of business meetings and arts events in central New Jersey, go to www.princetoninfo.com/us1evts.html
Summer Campers: In the Nation’s Service
`Lots of students arrive on this campus paralyzed," says Ted Deutsch about his alma mater Princeton University, "students from public school backgrounds and minority students who have not been exposed to that kind of competitiveness before."
Yet the lack of sufficient academic preparation is not the only obstacle a student may face to a full appreciation of life on a college campus. Students who have not previously had the chance to move outside the boundaries of the familiar may not stretch themselves in order to appreciate the diversity of a college environment. Further, says Deutsch, "students from a more privileged background are cheating themselves if they march through with a narrow social circle and don’t learn from other students with different backgrounds and experience."
When Deutsch looks back on his own college experience, he has his own regrets. "If anything, the years since college have made me more aware of how I did not maximize the experience of living, studying, and socializing on a diverse campus," he says. "Too often students on campuses like Princeton move primarily within their comfort zones – whether related to their sport, their prep school, their skin color, or their religion – and only later realize how many amazing people they failed to discover during their college years."
Deutsch, who graduated from Paramus High School, was better prepared than most for Princeton University – because his parents could afford to send him to a summer pre-college program at Phillips Academy Andover. For four weeks he lived in dorms with bright students and took classes that were more academically intensive than those in his high school. Describing that campus as "a prep school that feels like college," Deutsch says, "I was lucky to be able to do it. As a public high school student, it made the transition to a liberal arts college easier for me." He graduated from Princeton University as a history major in 1991, and got a master’s degree in international affairs from Georgetown University.
During college he served as resident advisor in a similar program to Andover’s run by Academic Study Associates (ASA) at Amherst College. "When I reflected back on the ASA program where I worked," he says, "I thought it would be wonderful to have a summer program that tries to draw diverse students and has a focus on civic engagement and community service in a meaningful way."
As Deutsch – who now runs Deutsch Communications Group in Princeton, a niche public relations firm – began thinking about more about the program, he learned that his old employer, ASA, was thinking about opening a new site at Princeton University. Deutsch worked with Marcia Evans, founder of ASA, and David Evans, its vice president, to develop the new program, being offered this summer for the first time at Princeton, that reflects Deutsch’s original vision.
ASA, which has operated summer programs for 25 years, creates new ones as the needs and interests of students change. "They were very progressive in wanting to build something meaningful and inclusive at Princeton," says Deutsch.
The Princeton program will be quite distinct from its fellow ASA summer college prep programs at UC-Berkeley and UMass-Amherst. Promotional material for the four-week Princeton program states that "the curriculum is designed to encourage you to think critically about major societal challenges and to empower you with the knowledge, skills, and perspective for socially responsible leadership. Courses will focus "on leadership, civic engagement, and some of the critical social and political issues that face our time." In place of the mini-courses with titles like "Making the Band," "The Science of Cooking," or "Tennis" that meet two afternoons a week at Berkeley and Amherst, the Princeton site is offering a community action workshop where students will plan a project they can implement after returning home.
The courses offered by the two older ASA programs are designed to fit the interests of teens with dependable topics like photography, American popular culture, and developmental psychology. The Princeton classes, however, directly confront national and global social, economic, and political issues. For example, where Berkeley and Amherst offer a standard introduction to economics, Princeton has a class titled "Globalization and International Development" – an introduction to economics through case studies in international development. And the course description asks, "How do we balance national and international economic growth with concerns of workers’ rights, fair trade, and environmental impact?"
Kiki Jamieson, director of the Pace Center for civic engagement at Princeton University, was part of the initial conversations about the new program. She is enthusiastic about the contribution a program like this can make to the next generation of civically minded leaders. "By offering teens an opportunity to develop those skills and knowledge before they get to college," she says, "it helps them to be active and engaged citizens in all their communities – home, college, and the communities they choose after college."
The PACE center helps undergraduate and graduate students, staff, and alumni develop the capacity, skills, and knowledge to become effective public leaders and active citizens. To Jamieson, this type of learning has always been and continues to be critically important in the United States. "A strong democracy depends on educated, experienced, and imaginative public leaders, and anything that can help to support students in that development, we should do," she says.
While the Princeton ASA program is only using the Princeton campus and is not affiliated with the university’s programs, ASA is consciously trying to reflect the Princeton motto "in the nation’s service and the service of all nations," says Deutsch.
In order to draw a diverse student body to the program Deutsch says ASA is broadening the number of scholarships. Historically, college prep programs have either drawn students from affluent families or focused only on students from disadvantaged backgrounds. "There are not as many that actually replicate what students will find once they get to college – a mix from all economic, social, and racial backgrounds on one campus."
ASA hopes to merge various populations at Princeton. "One of the goals is to help students find common ground with students of all different backgrounds and strengths and be better prepared to have rich college experience when they land on campuses a few years later," says Deutsch.
To realize this goal, however, will require a considerable amount of scholarship money, more than ASA can provide on its own. In the past, ASA would fully fund a few scholarships, but to increase the number of scholarships for Princeton it has created a community partner program to fund about half the tuition costs for disadvantaged students as well as a $500 stipend for student expenses and another $500 that will remain with the partner organization to help cover the costs of administration. The goal is to fund a quarter of the 60 students expected to enroll. For families able to afford the full freight, the cost of the program is $5,895.
To attract community partners ASA and Deutsch are working in three directions: advocating with organizations that already have funds set aside for student summer programs to make ASA’s Princeton site one of their destinations; providing potential community partners with tools to apply to foundations on their own; and looking for funders to underwrite the costs for one or more students.
The program is actively recruiting attendees and has had inquiries from Hawaii, Texas, Massachusetts, and New York as well as from countries around the world, including France, Chile, the Netherlands, China, and Pakistan. The program is open to most students who apply, says Deutsch, unless something glaring shows they are not a good match.
To find disadvantaged students who might profit from ASA’s summer program at Princeton, Deutsch and ASA will be pulling from programs that have already identified talented students who are on a positive track to college.
With only 60 students total in a small, highly staffed setting, the Princeton program will make sure it is impossible to get lost in the cracks – as might well happen when each new fledgling class arrives at Princeton University. "It will be easier to break down barriers, stereotypes, and preconceptions than when 1,400 students come into the campus in the fall," says Deutsch.
Deutsch comes from a family that is civically aware and active. His father, a financial consultant, and his mother, a high-school English teacher and homemaker, were both active volunteers who served on community boards.
His own community activism began early, when he founded a high-school version of Rotary, called Interact, at Paramus High School, where he was also head of student government. Through Rotary he attended service-oriented conferences during high school. He also worked one summer on Capitol Hill.
His firm, Deutsch Communications, based at 20 Nassau Street, directly across the streetfrom his alma mater, includes Deutsch’s wife, Jess, who works with companies on their community relations. It may, for example, develop communications initiatives about how employees are involved in the community or how the company, through its grant making and corporate philanthropy, has given back. It also helps companies establish relationships with nonprofits and nonprofits to connect with corporations.
"Corporate social responsibility is a growing and established trend among companies," says Deutsch. "They are taking a systematic look at how engaged they are in the community and society as a whole and the impact their business is having beyond the financial profitability."
Personally and professionally, the issue of at-risk youth has always been special for Deutsch. One of his clients, After School All Stars, is a nonprofit founded by Arnold Schwarzenegger that runs after-school programs in inner cities around the country, in New York, Atlanta, and California.
Deutsch is on the marketing advisory board of Boys and Girls Clubs in New Jersey, and his firm volunteers at the Boys and Girls Club of Trenton once a week; they run a newsletter class with the help of a reporter from the Trentonian. Deutsch is also involved in is Princeton Young Achievers, which has three different after-school centers for Princeton families.
His first job was with a Washington, DC, public affairs consulting firm, APCO Worldwide, where part of his job was to forge partnerships with nonprofits like Make-A-Wish Foundation, Special Olympics, MADD, and After School All Stars.
He then moved to New Jersey to do corporate communications for Cendant Car Rental Group and stayed for nearly a decade. He left as vice president for the Avis and Budget Rent A Car Group three years ago to start his own business.
Among Deutsch’s firm’s community relations clients is the Terra Momo Restaurant Group, which includes the restaurants Mediterra, Teresa Ristorante, Teresa Caffe, Witherspoon Bread Company, Nova Terra, and Eno Terra.
When a marketing initiative links up with a worthy cause, says Deutsch, the company benefits by improving its image as does the nonprofit it is supporting. Deutsch put together a promotion for Budget Rent A Car, for example, where the firm contacted its customers and solicited donations to After School All Stars, offering in return a discount on a future car rental.
One of Deutsch’s biggest clients is Points of Light and Hands On Network, a network of volunteer centers around the country. He helps promote its national conference and was active in the public relations launch of a new national monument it created, the Extra Mile – Points of Light Volunteer Pathway, a mile-long walk not far from the White House lined with bronze medallions that feature leaders in the social and service sectors.
"We are usually commemorating celebrities or generals in American cities; these are unsung heroes who have built national movements dedicated to service," Deutsch notes. Among the honorees are Martin Luther King Jr.; Cesar Chavez; Eunice Kennedy Shriver; Clifford Beers, the founder of the modern mental health care movement; and Millard Fuller, founder of Habitat for Humanity.
Deutsch’s hope is that programs like ASA will prepare students to meet their futures with confidence. "Just reaching the campus isn’t enough," he says. "If that student is not prepared to be comfortable academically and socially, they won’t get the most out of the experience."
Deutsch Communications, 20 Nassau Street, 609-924-7490; fax 609-924-7491. Home page: www.deutschcommunications.com.
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