THF Internship Program Turns 20: Alumni Spotlight–Shandra McDonald

In 1995, when Shandra McDonald was accepted into the T. Howard Foundation Internship Program‘s inaugural class, she was a graduate student studying film at Howard University. One of just 14 THF interns that year, Shandra went on to have a successful production career, on her own terms.

This is Shandra’s first person account of her journey from intern to production company CEO.

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I learned about the T. Howard Foundation through Howard University. Howard was always aggressive in encouraging its students to gain real world experience through internships. I had several internships throughout college, and Howard professors and career counselors knew me as someone who was always looking for opportunities to learn, so I always had my eyes on the career and internship board.

During my second semester of my three-year MFA degree program, I was hired as an intern at the Discovery Channel in nearby Silver Spring, Maryland through the T. Howard Foundation. I worked in the CD-ROM division, and at that time, Discovery was beginning to expand, so they were doing a lot of cataloging.

As a film student and a filmmaker, I wasn’t initially thrilled with the idea of working in the CD-ROM department, but I ended up loving it. I worked hard and met many individuals, and my manager was impressed with the work I completed.

Elevator Pitch Helps Land Freelance Job
I’m an ambitious person, and I pay attention to everything that is happening around me. While I was a CD-ROM intern, I learned that the Discovery Channel had a stock footage library, and I knew that there were different opportunities for work in that division. I met the division head in the elevator, and introduced myself and asked if I could set up a meeting with him.

As a film student at Howard University, I was learning about traditional narrative-based film editing and directing. But during my internship and freelance work at Discovery, I had learned and experienced first-hand about offline, non-linear editing, which made me more versatile. As a direct result of that internship, I was offered and accepted a freelance editing position in Discovery’s newly launched international division. This work offered me an additional education that I was being paid to receive—although I had to balance activities and my graduate school thesis. At the time, I was also producing projects at Howard, and I was gaining valuable experience that I could translate into a full-time job.

Timing is Everything
As a freelancer in the international division, my manager knew I was preparing to graduate with an MFA. He was seeking a full-time producer, and the timing couldn’t have been better. Because I had worked for Discovery as an intern through the T. Howard Foundation, I was hired as a freelancer, which ultimately led me to a full-time producer position, a job for which I didn’t even need to apply because I was already vetted and in the Discovery system.

I produced programming with the Discovery Channel Foundation for underdeveloped areas in Africa. I directed full segments overseas and edited existing programs to be later aired on the Discovery Channel.

Prestigious Award is Catalyst for Move to L.A.
In 1998, after learning that my Howard University short film thesis won the Directors Guild of America Student Film Award, I was invited to move to Los Angeles to work in post-production for several BET movies that were based on romantic novels. I worked on that project for close to a year before I freelance wrote and produced for reality television production companies.

I moved to Atlanta in 2002 and worked for Paramount Pictures on The Fighting Temptations. As Atlanta was growing as a production city, I began field producing and story editing for Turner and a number of Atlanta-based production companies.

Reach High—But Don’t Go Overboard
In 2005, I formed Kiss the Limit Productions, where we tell stories that transform peoples’ lives. I realized early on in my career that I wanted to present empowering stories, and those that are compelling and artistically based. Kiss the Limit is a reflection of my motto that you have to reach for the greatest heights in this industry, but not go too far. My company produces short and long form content for a variety of clients in television and film.

Through Kiss the Limit, I’ve produced such feature films as The Last Adam, which is now in Redbox, and A Cross to Bear, which aired on ASPiRE, formerly the Gospel Movie Channel. I’ve also directed and produced award-winning documentary projects that have screened in festivals around the world, including the FESPACO Film Festival in Burkina Faso and the Cannes Film Festival in France. My company is currently producing a documentary on an early intervention model for girls who are at risk for prostitution called Voices. Kiss the Limit secured money from investors and a local bank for this project.

Starting this fall, I’m going to be a professor in Clayton State University’s film production department. I’m excited to share my experience in the field with future filmmakers.

This media business requires a great deal hard work, dedication, innovation and strategy. I knew where I wanted to be in a year. I knew which department I wanted to move to. You have to be able to think ahead and to strategize for evolution through a company and career.

Alumni Spotlight: Edgar Corona, Marketing Coordinator, National Football League

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Edgar_CoronaTwo key elements for Edgar Corona launching a successful career in the media industry are networking and mentorship. Growing up in Los Angeles, Edgar moved to the East Coast to attend Georgetown University in Washington. DC. At Georgetown, Edgar majored in marketing and international business. In his marketing classes and during an internship experience after his freshman year of college, Edgar says that the roles media promotions and advertising play in marketing grabbed his attention, “I was working with a political marketing team and was able to really see the face-to-face marketing and distribution. That is where my interest in media really began.”

At that time, Edgar shared his interest in media with one of his mentors and she suggested that he pursue an internship with the T. Howard Foundation (THF). Edgar, ever persistent, researched the Foundation and requested an informational interview with Sharise Kent, Senior Project Manager. His meeting with Sharise increased his interest and he applied for the summer internship program during his junior year. After being selected for THF’s Final Talent Pool for summer 2011 opportunities, Edgar then landed an internship with ESPN, in the sports network’s sales and marketing division, located in New York City. During the Foundation’s 2011 Summer Internship Orientation, Edgar continued to network and cultivate mentors. “It was fascinating for me to see and learn how individuals really communicated and contributed to different parts of the media sector.”

The T. Howard Foundation pairs all its interns with a mentor. Bryce Adams, an active THF alumnus who now works for the New York Yankees, was assigned to mentor Edgar. He often turned to his mentor for guidance. “Bryce was experienced in the field, and I was able to talk to him about the experiences I had in my role and how a project would develop, and he gave me pointers and advice on how best to handle a situation.”

After Edgar concluded his internship with ESPN, he returned to Georgetown for his senior year and maintained the relationships he established during the summer and also spread the word about the T. Howard Foundation Internship Program at campus events.

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Edgar Corona at the NFL Draft

After graduation, Edgar secured a position in the NFL’s highly competitive Junior Rotational Program. In July 2012 he began an assignment as a Marketing Coordinator in the NFL’s sponsorship department focusing on entertainment marketing.

“One of the reasons I really like this industry is because it is always changing and it is constantly evolving where you always have the opportunity to learn,” Edgar stated last week. “I have been working with partners, players and agents to understand how players and teams cooperate in promoting the teams.”

Edgar credits the T. Howard Foundation with providing him with the resources and access to individuals that have allowed him to begin his career path. In fact, THF chose Edgar to represent all Internship Program alumni by inviting him to speak at last year’s Diversity Awards Dinner, held annually in New York, and attended by multimedia industry executives.

At the beginning of 2014, he transitioned out of the NFL’s Junior Rotational Program and was promoted to a full-time Marketing Coordinator in the League’s entertainment and promotions department. Edgar encourages students to “take advantage of the opportunities they encounter, whether they are big or small there is always an opportunity to learn; there is always an opportunity to meet new individuals and grow as individuals and professionals. The resources provided by this program (T. Howard Foundation) really make it helpful for individuals and puts you in a position to succeed.”