St. Mary's College of Maryland's Marc Apter (third from left), APR, associate vice president for marketing and public relations, accepts the 2008 Thoth Award in the Multicultural Public Relations Program category from the Public Relations Society of America's National Capital Chapter at a gala in Washington also attended by (from left to right) Torre Meringolo, college vice president for development; Melvin "Mac" McClintock, current St. Mary's County Human Relations Commission chair; and Robin Kendall, formerly of the college's Office of Public and Media Relations and now a freelance writer. (Submitted photo)
ST. MARY'S CITY, Md. (Nov. 10, 2008)—The St. Mary's College of Maryland (SMCM) Office of Public and Media Relations, the St. Mary's County Human Relations Commission, and the county's Board of Education have won a Public Relations Society of America's (PRSA) Thoth Award for developing and producing an outstanding, strategic public relations program on race relations in the Greater Washington, D.C. area. The college and the county won in the Multicultural Public Relations Program category for the annual SMCM Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast enhanced by a countywide Race Relations Study Circles Program. More than 135 entries in 27 categories were considered. Twenty-three Thoth Awards were presented at an evening awards gala in Washington, which was attended by more than 200 communications professionals.
Marc Apter, APR, accepted the award on behalf of the college. "The growth of Study Circles is a direct result of the positive effect the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast has had on our community for the past several years," said Apter, associate vice president of marketing and public relations at SMCM. "We wanted the breakfast to extend into community life on a regular basis. We were able to adopt a Study Circles program that brings a diverse group of people together in several community locations for frank discussions leading to solutions of racial issues in our community and at the college."
To be considered for the 2008 Thoth award, a detailed entry was required that described the creative origins and the plan of action for publicizing the Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast and the Community Race Relations Study Circles Program. The awards submission included the research, planning and execution of the events, as well as an evaluation of the program's success in measurable terms.
"We are proud to recognize St. Mary's College of Maryland's leadership in race relations in Southern Maryland," said Heathere Evans-Keenan, president of the PRSA National Capital Chapter and founder of Keenan PR, Inc., when presenting the award. Pronounced "Tot" and named for the Egyptian god of information and communication, this year's event marked the 40th anniversary of the Thoth Awards.
Local Race Relations Study Circles grew out of the Southern Maryland community's and the college's desire to broaden the impact of the popular annual Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast which is held annually at the college. After researching ways to approach multicultural and educational issues between races, the college chose the Study Circles concept, which originated with a Boston-based non-profit foundation. Study Circles groups meet with the goal of promoting discussion among community members about shared concerns, experiences, and recommendations on improving race relations. The program was adopted for use in the larger St. Mary's County community and at the college for student, faculty and staff.
The racial and ethnic diversity of St. Mary's County Public School students and families is special, but can also make it challenging to communicate with everyone, to work together, and to make sure each student succeeds. The school system partnered with St. Mary's College and St. Mary's County Government to offer the Study Circle process to schools and the larger St. Mary's community. As a result of this partnership, the Board of Education was able to facilitate several successful Study Circles. The three collaborating institutions successfully trained ten Study Circles facilitators. The Study Circles dialogue provides the board with the tools to celebrate diversity and with recommendations to help students. To date, the school system has implemented three successful school-based Study Circles with two additional circles scheduled to begin later this fall.
Leaders from local government, industry and non-profit sectors have participated in Study Circles. The county sheriff's office and the local military base, Naval Air Station, Patuxent River, plan to hold Study Circles in the coming months. Individuals interested in taking part in local Race Relations Study Circles should contact Marc Apter at mlapter (at) smcm.edu.
The PRSA National Capital Chapter represents the world's leadership in the practice of public relations. Supporting more than 1,400 PRSA members, the chapter provides professional development programs, accreditation instruction and networking opportunities. The chapter also promotes public relations education through the support of five regional chapters and a Career Academy for inner city high school students.