Cracking the code

How The BrandLab is expanding student access

Historically, The BrandLab’s roots are in classroom programs. But, over the years, we’ve developed new and innovative ways to reach students, to bring them into the program and to make it more accessible by meeting them where they are.

This year in our Classroom Program, our high school level students continued to complete a rigorous curriculum that introduces them to creative problem solving needed for successful marketing and advertising careers. Students learn the history of media, ethics in marketing and advertising, how brands are developed and influence the marketplace, and different aspects of production.

One of the students that learned about The BrandLab through the Classroom Program is Melanie Lee, now a Sophomore at University of Minnesota Twin Cities. She participated in our marketing and advertising lessons during high school and ultimately received our class scholarship, which she describes as an “amazing feeling.”

“At that time I didn’t realize my strengths and skills,” Melanie says. “A lot of people don’t know about the marketing and advertising industry. Being exposed to The BrandLab was very life changing for me.”

Being exposed to The BrandLab was life-changing for me.

– Melanie Lee,
Sophomore at University of Minnesota Twin Cities (Marketing and Education) and
The BrandLab alumni


of students qualified for
free/reduced lunch



of students were POC



of classroom students
could identify the 5 P’s of
Marketing after TBL class

Melanie has since been part of The BrandLab internship program through Words At Work, our mentorship program and has attended many The BrandLab events.“The greatest benefits of The BrandLab for me are the networking opportunities and the connections I was able to make with people in the industry,” she says. “It is a great program. You gain a lot of experience and friendships. Everybody is very caring, open and supportive.”

In addition to our traditional classroom model, we also piloted TBL Spark, a new model which takes the core components of our curriculum and teaches them in a 2-day, rapid-fire format. This model was designed for alternative avenues for finding talent – a new audience of high-performing students, non-profit partners, and freshmen community college classrooms have become new recruiting grounds for us, providing even more opportunities for Twin Cities youth to join The BrandLab.

We cooperated with 10 high schools…

  • Park Center Senior High
  • North Community High School
  • Como Park Senior High
  • Central High School
  • Johnson High School
  • Richfield High School
  • Kennedy High School
  • MCTC
  • Edison Senior High
…and served a total of 698 students:

  • 66% of students qualified for free/reduced lunch
  • 90% of students were POC
  • 87% of classroom students could identify the 5 P’s of Marketing after TBL class

Breaking barriers with internships

Since its infancy, The BrandLab has found talented students across the Twin Cities who are curious about marketing and advertising as a career. But, this year, The BrandLab Internship Program completely overhauled our pitch and application process to specifically recruit students who face an economic or racial/ethnic barrier. Every single intern hire in 2016-2017 was driven by these goals, making our cohort our most mission-driven yet.


interns hired


of intern hires were mission-driven.


student to coach ratio


industry volunteers spent over 60 hours with our interns



One of the interns was Lamah Bility, now a Sophomore at River Falls. He came to the U.S. in 2008 at 11 years old, trying to find ways to learn English and navigate his new life as an American. He joined his local Boys & Girls Club, and as a high school senior, learned about The BrandLab internship opportunity, thanks to a new partnership between our organizations.

Through The BrandLab, I felt accepted and hopeful.

– Lamah Bility, Sophomore at River Falls (Marketing Communications) and
The BrandLab alumni

Lamah has since been an intern with the Minnesota Children’s Museum and mono, a strategic creative agency. In addition, Lamah helped produce the BrandLab podcast and participated in a variety of BrandLab events.

“Through the BrandLab, I felt accepted and hopeful. There are so many opportunities that I would not have had if it weren’t for the BrandLab,” he says. “Seeing the dynamic work and the different types of people working in the industry, seeing the different paths of life that lead to where they are now, has been very impactful on me personally. Everybody just had a different story and that was eye-opening for me. As an immigrant, I try really hard to fit in with the people and the culture. My biggest challenge was finding myself and the BrandLab helped me with that. It showed me that you can be whatever you want to be.”

We added enrichment around our intern’s social-emotional learning by creating weekly writing prompts that they shared with their supervisors to fuel deeper connection. We continued our mission-driven recruitment with our engaged coaches and volunteers of color to reflect our young interns.


What our supervisors said:


agreed or strongly agreed that their interns were able to graciously accept feedback or criticism


agreed or strongly agreed that their interns brought energy and enthusiasm into the workplace


agreed or strongly agreed that their interns stayed calm and unflappable under stress


Our internship survey showed:


felt their ideas were valued and will help them be successful in the marketing industry


listed a future desired major related to the industry