Occasionally, communication professionals find the need to utilize different aspects of their skills, ideas, backgrounds and connections to get the job done, and this only becomes more true when the project's goal is to bring hope to one's community. So it's no surprise that the Kid Superintendent video for the Reading School District by Kristin Boyd, KLN '02, went viral nationally in a matter of days, after she pulled together a perfect display of what it means to be a school public relations professional. The best part? The video features her own 9-year-old son Jermaine, who played the part of a Reading student, despite not actually being one himself.
Boyd graduated from Klein College of Media and Communication's Department of Journalism, pursuing an internship at Essence through the American Society of Magazine Editors the summer before her senior year. At the time, she wanted to pursue a career in either magazines or newspapers, but knew that either way she would be working in the features section.
"Kristin was a terrific student because she was thoughtful about combining what she learned in different kinds of classes and because she was optimistic, curious, and open-minded about opportunities to explore different kinds of careers," says Laura H. Carnell Professor of Journalism Carolyn Kitch, who worked closely with Boyd to secure her internship at Essence. "She did coursework and internships in both newspaper and magazine journalism, including the prestigious American Society of Magazine Editors internship in New York. City. I knew that whatever direction her career took, she would thrive and would be a great representative of Temple."
Following her graduation, Boyd worked at various newspapers and magazines for almost ten years, functioning in several roles such as featured reporter and editor at Pennsylvania publications such as the Lebanon Daily Times and the Reading Eagle. In 2008, she moved into the public relations industry as the associate editor of alumni publications for Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, using her journalistic reporting and editing skills to meet the needs of a college as opposed to a locality—a different kind of community. Since then, she also did a brief stint as the director of marketing and communications for the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce & Industry. Today, Boyd has been the director of communications for the Reading School District since 2012, and has been freelancing in addition to her full-time positions for over 15 years.
With so much varied experience under her belt, Boyd was prepared to pivot in almost any direction for the Reading School District when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. Knowing that the district would be kicking off the 2020-2021 school year in a fully remote capacity, Boyd came up with a plan to get the students, faculty and staff excited on what would have been their Opening Day, a traditional outdoor day in a baseball stadium meant to get the whole district excited about the upcoming school year. She would shoot a video in order to recreate the superintendent's signature Opening Day address to students, but also added a new element: the theme would be Kid Superintendent, based on the popular Kid President videos. In order to write the script, then film and edit the video took a total of three days, Sunday to Tuesday.
"When I sat down to write the script I just kept thinking, 'What is it that you want to say?' And that's when that writer came out, that storytelling came out," Boyd says. "And I said I really want to write a love letter to the people I really care about in this district, and let them know that it is a scary time but, as cliche as it sounds, we're all in this together."
When the Reading student she had in mind as the star of the video wasn't available, Boyd called on her own son, 9-year-old Jermaine, to help with the video. His one condition? He wanted Taco Bell.
Though she notes he's generally more interested in reading about animals and science than being in the spotlight, she says that he added a unique, innocent touch to the video, even ad libbing and adding his own signature humor. "It was really amazing to watch," she says. "He added a really childlike presence to that script that I hadn't even done, because I'm speaking from a professional standpoint."
When the video was released, it was an almost immediate success. The video racked up thousands of views on Vimeo overnight, and it wasn't long before 6ABC requested an interview. Good Morning America called the next day, and now the video has accumulated more than four million views across several platforms, something Jermaine didn't even know until she told him the following day.
"People just connected to it," she says "I knew our staff members would like it or at least that's what I was hoping, but I didn't think so many people in our community or outside would."
Boyd also says that she was excited to put her profession itself in the spotlight, as not many industry professionals realize what a vibrant and welcoming professional community that school public relations has to offer. And with her bulletproof background that began at Klein and stretches across journalism, public relations, freelancing, writing and editing, Boyd believes that it is a viable career option for students and professionals already in those fields.
"[Klein] and the people there were always so supportive, and always so willing to help." Boyd says. "I'll just never forget how we were treated there."