Attending conferences and uniting with other rising professionals is certainly a highlight among the many opportunities associated with Klein College of Media and Communication. For senior public relations (PR) major LeiLani J. Leaston, attending one such conference was extra special this year as she accepted the Geoffrey M. Curtis Scholarship which will help her finance the rest of her time at Temple University.
Established in 2023, the Geoffrey M. Curtis Scholarship is awarded to a junior or senior rising communications professional who identifies as Black, Indigenous or person of color. Leaston first heard about the scholarship via an email from the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA).
Leaston, a member of Temple’s PRSSA chapter, said this scholarship interested her because she could tell how much Geoffrey M. Curtis cared about education equity. As a student from a single-parent, low-income home, Leaston was able to tell her story in the application essay for the scholarship.
Although Leaston knows that her future is in PR, that wasn’t always the case. When she first enrolled at Temple, she thought she wanted to pursue journalism because she loved writing. But, after taking her first PR class, she realized she found her place.
“I didn’t know what public relations was because I never saw anyone that looked like me in it,” Leaston said. She is happy that Temple and people like Curtis are supporting individuals like her. She hopes to pay it forward by opening doors for others and making a difference in the PR field.
When Leaston met with Curtis before the conference, she made sure to tell him that she would make him proud and wouldn’t take the scholarship for granted. In addition to the scholarship, Curtis also connected Leaston with a variety of PR agencies after she expressed interest in pursuing agency work.
“It’s a hard mountain to climb but it certainly does embody what LeiLani is all about as an aspiring practitioner,” said Assistant Dean for Community and Communications David Brown.
Brown is the faculty advisor for Temple University’s Black PR Society (TUBPRS) and has seen Leaston progress in her leadership and confidence in her identity. She understands what it means to be underrepresented in her field, he said and is determined to build a bridge for others to reverse that trend.
“LeiLani is extremely deserving of all her accolades,” said Leaston’s friend and TUBPRS President Camillia Benjamin. “She does a lot of great work, not only just for Klein but for the Temple community as a whole.”
Benjamin and Leaston have worked together inside and outside of the classroom and have grown together as PR professionals. They formed a friendship and Benjamin was proud to celebrate Leaston at PRSA ICON in October.
Brown noted that both Benjamin and Leaston have been instrumental to the functionality of TUBPRS and will certainly leave behind a legacy of hard work and dedication to the club.
Outside of Temple, Leaston has explored the world of sports PR through internships at NBC10, NBC Sports Philadelphia and Temple Athletics. Currently, Leaston is an athletic development intern for the latter.
Leaston is also exploring what it’s like to work in a nonprofit through her work as a communications intern for Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey. Though she thinks she wants to ultimately end up in sports, she is happy to have the experience and knowledge of nonprofit work.
Recently, Leaston was accepted to the master of science in sport business from the School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management and is looking forward to the next chapter in her career.