Miller, 25, unknowingly saw a glimpse of her postgraduate future when she and her classmates were assigned a project in Professor David Romanelli’s small group communication class. They teamed up with No Idle Hands, a nonprofit organization aiming to decrease youth violence in Chicago, to put together a marketing campaign. They produced a documentary highlighting gun violence in Chicago.
After Miller graduated with degrees in communication studies and Spanish in spring 2010, she was able to take the new media skills she learned in Romanelli’s class and apply them at a different nonprofit organization called Free Spirit Media.
“Digital media arts are so relevant now. Everybody wants a part of it,” Miller said.
Miller became the development and communication coordinator for Free Spirit Media, a Chicago nonprofit that partners with schools and organizations to promote media production and advocacy through education, access and opportunity for underserved urban youth.
Miller has been interested in working with marginalized communities her whole life, but she was not sure how to pursue this interest or if it was even practical. She went on service trips in high school and had been involved in the homeless community in her hometown of Pittsburgh. During her time at Loyola, Miller realized that she wanted to work with marginalized communities as a career, and Loyola showed her some realistic ways to follow that dream in the communication field.
“It [Loyola] showed me what I wasn’t necessarily looking for, but it was actually what I really needed,” said Miller, referring to working with these communities.
In July 2010, less than three months after Miller’s graduation, Free Spirit Media hired Miller as a development associate. Miller learned about developmental tasks like fundraising, grant writing and event planning, but she was also able to incorporate her communication skills with the organization’s social media, event marketing and graphic design. After about a year and a half as development associate, Miller was promoted to her position as development and communications coordinator.
“I like that Loyola is so focused on community involvement and civic engagement,” Miller said, “[If] you’ve always had those experiences, you’re able to make connections better, you’re able to have a network of support, and you’re able to engage with adults who can put you on a path to getting a job.”
Miller loves working with young people and has taken every opportunity she can through Free Spirit Media. Last summer, she worked in an internship program of 20 incoming seniors and recently graduated seniors where they held high level internship positions and worked in post production houses throughout Chicago. Free Spirit Media strives to give urban youth a voice, and Miller has supported the Free Spirit Media youth council that she said is “charged with the goal of infusing youth voice into everything we do.”
At the beginning of April, Miller started a new job, launching her further into the direction of her dream. She is the grant coordinator for Breakthrough Urban Ministries in East Garfield Park. Breakthrough aims to bring homeless intervention, neighborhood transformation and youth development to its broken neighborhood.
Miller credits these experiences and connections as aids to solidifying her present and future. At Loyola, professors connected the course material to larger societal issues.
“Through Loyola, I figured that I could still create change and positively influence the world, and it could still be in a communications position,” Miller said. “It’s so nice to go to work and do what you love to do and feel like you’re on the right path.”