35 Under 35 Class of 2020-21: Ashton Brellenthin

Ashton Brellenthin
Danville (Ind.) Community School Corporation
@SeeAshtonWrite; @DCSCWarriors

Ashton is one of 35 professionals, age 35 and under, who makes up the Class of 2020-21. They are emerging leaders who are making a difference in school public relations.

What does leadership mean to you?

For me, leadership means providing a positive example for others while also encouraging them to be their best.

What was the most fulfilling professional moment you have experienced?

While it's not one single moment, I always find it flattering and encouraging when someone mentions what I have done for the school such as taking a photo, creating a graphic or writing about the school. Those connections are what we are all working for!

What are the most challenging and/or rewarding parts about working in school PR?

The most challenging part of school PR for me is keeping my personal and political opinions to myself. While I live in a community that leans one way politically and I lean the other, I know the importance of being a kind, welcoming and receptive school spokesperson. 

The most rewarding part of my job is hands down the connections I make with the students and staff at our schools. In addition to being a visible presence at all of our schools, I volunteer with an United Way program called ReadUP that pairs me with a third grade student each week for the entire year. These relationships are incredibly rewarding and being able to follow students as they grow at our schools is proving to be one of my favorite aspects of the job.

How have NSPRA and your state chapter guided you along the way?

I speak almost daily in a group text with the other school PR professionals in my county - all of which are INDSPRA members. Their feedback, their support and their encouraging words are instrumental in the success I have found in this position. We often team up to accomplish unified goals as neighboring schools and give each other a heads up when it comes to media requests. Additionally, the information and advice I receive from both INDSPRA and NSPRA  members across the state and country have been extremely helpful as I build my position from the ground up for Danville Schools.

What are your favorite work and personal apps?

For work, I utilize the graphic design platform Canva several times a week. While I have extensive training and experience with InDesign, Canva makes creating graphics for social media and newsletters quick and easy.

Personally, I enjoy Calm - an app that features meditation, sleep aid, gentle movement and stretching and music designed to help you focus, relax and sleep. With a stressful job like school PR, we all need the support of Calm in our life!

What book has inspired you professionally?

This year I have been reading "So You Want to Talk About Race" by Ijeoma Oluo with the entire administration team. It has helped me tremendously when it comes to the images, stories and words that I share for the school district.

What is a recent communications/media campaign you enjoyed — either one of your own or one you saw nationally?

While working on attracting more families to our school district, I launched a campaign this summer asking teachers, staff members, administrators, parents/guardians, community members and students what they loved about being a part of Danville Schools. It was incredibly encouraging to see the statements everyone submitted without any prompting. The statements from the students, in particular the preschool and elementary children, were especially moving.

What emerging trends in school public relations get you excited?

Having come from a background in journalism where value is placed highly on numbers, I find the rising importance of data and analytics very exciting. Being able to point at a number that validates the significance of school PR is amazing!