Born in Chicago, Carlos Jaramillo earned his bachelor’s in History with a minor in Secondary Education from St. Xavier University. He began teaching fresh out of college and within two years, he had transitioned into a counselor/administrative role for a large charter school network in his area. He enjoyed this role because it allowed him to stay in education while enhancing his service to underserved communities in Chicago.
“For Latinos here in Chicago and across the country, there is so much more we need to do to get where we need to be. We need more Latino doctors and engineers and police officers – you name it. And it all starts with education, so education is near and dear to my heart,” Carlos said.
As the charter network grew, Carlos created a 5K race fundraiser, Carrera de los Muertos (“Race of the Dead”), centered around the Latino tradition of the Day of the Dead. “I was 25 years old, naïve and ready to conquer the world. I figured How hard can it be? Turns out it was extremely hard,” Carlos said. He originally told his CEO and city officials that he expected 3,000 runners. “That first year, in 2007, we had 500 runners. We had a lot of T-shirts leftover and lost a lot of money. I thought I was going to get fired.”
Fortunately, he didn’t get fired, and after this first eye-opening experience in special events, Carlos vowed to learn and do everything he could to grow the race. Year after year, the race grew and it now features over 6,000 runners annually, hailing from over 40 states. He still serves as race director the Carrera de los Muertos but also works in a full-time role for The Resurrection Project (TRP), one of the largest Latino nonprofits in the Midwest. TRP focuses primarily on building community wealth and advocating for long-lasting, positive change. Additionally, TRP provides adequate and affordable housing to low-income families across Chicago.
Carlos’ experience in advertising and public relations from the race had served him well, but he knew he would need formal education and training to take his ambitions to the next level. “I’d always wanted to get a master’s, but between undergrad loans, a mortgage, car note, and other debt, it just wasn’t feasible before. I finished paying a number of things off and thought, It’s now or never. I knew there would never be a perfect time, but I finally felt like it was a good enough time.”
Because of the pandemic and his work schedule, he wanted to find an online program that offered flexibility and relieved some of his ongoing COVID-19 concerns. “I looked locally in Chicago and a lot of the programs I came across were very expensive. I needed it to be affordable, but I also wanted to make sure the program I chose had a good reputation for advertising and public relations and a strong brand recognition.”
Carlos came across The University of Alabama’s 100% online master’s in Advertising and Public Relations with a concentration in Marketing Communication Management, and at first he thought it was too good to be true. “The price was perfect. I didn’t want to be saddled with future debt. And the APR program at UA is nationally recognized as a top program. I couldn’t believe it.”
Carlos began the master’s in 2021 and has been taking two classes. So far, he’s been pleased with the coursework, curriculum and engagement of the program. “There’s a ton of reading, but the books assigned are ones that I wish I had bought instead of renting! The content is incredibly beneficial to the work that I do.” He also appreciates the networking opportunities. “It keeps you connected to the university and to other peer professionals. We have group work nearly every weekend for one class, and I’m able to hear from my classmates in the same field and bounce ideas off of them, learn from them and relate to them. I know there will be folks from that group that I’ll maintain relationships with after this class.”
Carlos is excited about all he will learn in the program and looks forward to continuing to apply the concepts to elevate his work. He’s also confident the program will benefit his long-term career dreams. “I have yearnings to start my own nonprofit one day, and this will 100% be beneficial to me if I decide to go that route.” In addition, he sees earning his master’s as a level of achievement and pride that honors his roots.
“The sacrifices that my parents made for me as a first-generation Mexican American here were immense. And from a very young age, they emphasized education as the key. It may sound like a stretch to some but to me, getting this master’s will be a testament to my parents’ hard work and will further justify their reason for coming to this country.”
Published: April 19th, 2021