The primary goal for participants of Donna Downs’ service learning projects is to bring awareness to the community. But in the end, this group brought home the platinum.
Year after year, the public relations program has participated in projects that both showcase their talents in marketing and PR, but also give back to the surrounding community. Over time, projects have been honored with an award from MarCom, administered by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals (AMCP).
“It's a high honor for successful [service learning] campaigns in the marketing and communications areas,” Communication Department Chair Jeff Groeling said.
In the spring of 2021, now- senior Claire Nieshalla and now-senior Kenley Blake participated in a county-wide drug takeback day in Grant County. The campaign earned the PR department a platinum MarCom award in fall 2021.
The main goal of the service learning day was a Grant County drug takeback. During the event, Taylor students facilitated a drive through and drop off for unused prescription drugs. In eight hours, students collected around 200 pounds of unused drugs.
While service learning was emphasized, the main focus was on marketing and public relations, facilitated by Downs. She has repeatedly submitted projects to be judged for the MarCom awards, according to Groeling. Some aspects of the communication part could be seen in advertising the event, volunteering for the event and creating other marketing tools.
“I spent a few weekends going around and sticking up flyers and going to local businesses,” Nieshalla said. “We had a lot of partnerships with local businesses.”
Some of the local businesses reached by this project were the King's Academy, a private school, and CORE Grant county, a rehabilitation center for those suffering from addiction.
The most valuable part was not the good grade the students earned or the MarCom award itself, but the community connections made and the lives saved through the event.
“Our goal through this was that if just one life is changed and saved, that was successful because countless lives are taken every day through opioid addiction,” Nieshalla said.
Nieshalla got the idea for the drug takeback day from the struggles faced in her own hometown of Zionsville, where they held a similar event and collected over 400 pounds of unused drugs.
Blake said the projects have had a profound impact on how she serves the community, and therefore, the kingdom of God.
“I feel like [the projects] have really deepened my empathy for others and the ability to use the skills I’ve developed professionally to help make a difference in our community,” Blake said.
The projects have not only been a product of several hours outside of class, but also of the valuable skills students learned in the classroom.
“I feel like the projects that we’ve done with our community are so much more impactful than just turning it in and calling it a day,” Blake said. “We’re able to use the tools and skills we’ve learned in class to make a lasting impact on the community of Grant County.”
The service projects have not only had an impact on the community, but also on Taylor and its students. These relationships will be nourished and continued throughout the years and hopefully through more projects.
“We have been able to bridge the gap between Upland and Taylor through the projects we’ve been doing, and building great relationships with community members,” Blake said.
Just as communication bridges the gap between cultures, service projects bridge the gap between communities. The devoted students and staff of Taylor’s PR department are to thank for the end result.