By JamalEdeen Barghouti
When I first came to this university, school was a necessary evil. I was working a full-time job with plenty of room for growth. School was simply getting in the way of that. I failed to see the benefit of applying myself in anything outside of the classes I was required to take. I diligently enrolled in 12 credits each semester, slowly chipping away at my degree. I thought just having a degree would be enough to set me apart. I thought I was learning everything I needed to know. I was wrong.
Many advised me to get involved on campus. “I don’t see the point. I’m busy. I have a full-time job.” My excuses were endless. I saw myself as brilliant. I was sure of myself, to the point of entitlement, until I met Aida.
Aida was two years further along in our program. We were both studying journalism, both with a focus in strategic communications. She was a friend of my cousin, and quickly became one of mine. She urged me to get involved, explaining that it was an invaluable asset to my college career and my future professional career. Her constant pressure to get involved compounded with my growing fear of missing out led me to the hypothetical doors of the Public Relations Student Society of America, or PRSSA.
PRSSA is a network of over 11,000 students who are interested in public relations. When I joined, I didn’t know what PR meant. There were 10 active members in the Nevada chapter of PRSSA when I came aboard in the spring of 2014, but something had stirred within me. After my first meeting, a LinkedIn workshop, I was hooked. I became determined to squeeze every ounce of experience from PRSSA.
After a semester’s worth of PRSSA activities, I felt willing and able to jump into an internship. I had no former training, as I was still drudging through my core requirements. I knew it would be difficult to balance a full-time job and a summer internship, but I was determined. I applied for an internship with the Nevada Museum of Art, still unsure of what PR really was. The communications director, Amanda Horn, is a former PRSSA board member and Reynold’s School alumna. We connected instantly through our affiliation with PRSSA and our shared passion for public relations. Amanda gave me a chance and hired me. She became a mentor to me, and still is today.
Through my internship, I learned things which were never presented to me in class. I developed social media plans, I received hands-on experience, I helped to organize and run events at the museum as well as in the community. My internship allowed me to apply knowledge I had learned from PRSSA to real world situations. I became hungry for more. I suddenly wanted to be hyper-involved. In the fall of 2014, I was asked to be on the executive board of PRSSA Nevada.
When the fall semester began, PRSSA had barely enough members to be considered a club. However, I met some of the most intelligent and influential people of my life. The entire board was passionate. I was the director of public relations, allowing me to use my social media skills for the benefit of the club. I felt connected to my university, my community, and my future profession. We, as a board, helped members take advantage of every opportunity PRSSA offers; networking, fundraising, professional mentors, professional development, the national Bateman competition and eventually a student-run firm called “Wolf Pack Relations.” Last October, I attended the Public Relations Student Society of America’s national conference in Washington, D.C. It was an inspiring weekend of speakers from all over the country, experts in the PR industry. One speaker quoted author Steven Pressfield in his speech stating “Start before you’re ready.” The quote resonated with me. I can still feel it ringing in my ears.
As the 2014-2015 school year comes to a close, I reflect on my year with PRSSA. A year ago, I was unsure of what PR meant and just this month I was on a team of five that received an honorable mention in the Bateman competition. I would never spend more than the time required for class on campus, and now I find it difficult to leave campus. PRSSA helped me create a dream for myself to one day own a public relations firm of my own. It then provided me with the tools to start a student-run firm here on campus, so that other students can be inspired and energized. Our membership has grown from 10 to 30 members, and it is still growing.
Being involved on campus is more than meeting people or packing your resume. Being involved on campus is a chance to receive experimental education, which is otherwise unavailable. Being involved in extracurricular activities, whether it pertains to your major or just your hobby, can open your eyes to your true potential. A potential of leadership. A potential of understanding. A potential for experience. Unlock your potential, and start before you’re ready.
JamalEdeen Barghouti studies journalism. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.