UAB students develop campaign for Walker College Foundation

Reprinted with permission from the Daily Mountain Eagle
Students from the University of Alabama at Birmingham have spent the past few months organizing a campaign for the Walker College Foundation (WCF) in Jasper.

The WCF is a nonprofit that provides scholarships for students attending Bevill State Community College. Holly Trawick, executive director of Walker College Foundation, said despite having the foundation’s office located next to the Bevill State campus, many community members and Walker College alumni are unaware of the foundation’s efforts to help area students. Six senior public relations students from UAB are hoping to change that.

Last year, Jasper native and UAB student Kelsey Stracner was assigned in one of her PR classes to do a background report on an area nonprofit. She chose to profile the Walker College Foundation, and when students were later instructed to form groups and develop a PR plan for a nonprofit, five other students joined her to create a campaign for WCF.

UAB students Sarah Goodman, Tessa Harvill, Richard Edwards, Naeshia Woodhouse and Baili Grace Bigham have worked with Stracner since January to develop a campaign to boost the foundation’s success. Their four main activities were forming a third Thursday networking event, developing a brick campaign for Davis Hall, strengthening the foundation’s scholars society and securing viable media relations.

“Living here basically my whole life, I’m bringing my friends in from Birmingham. It’s been fun to show them the positives of Jasper,” Stracner said at the WCF office in early April.

Goodman added, “Working with a nonprofit has been really interesting. Nonprofits have to be really transparent about things.”

Each student took on different tasks during the campaign, which included executing effective social media strategies, locating former Walker College students, creating press releases and surveys, researching and compiling data to improve the nonprofit’s performance.

The students call themselves 205 Communications, and they won an award from the Public Relations Council of Alabama for their work with WCF.

“We’ve all had a piece in every single project,” Woodhouse said. “Most employers are looking for people with experience. It’s pretty neat to just be graduating and say I’ve already put together a campaign, ... and I have the experience you’re looking for. It’s definitely helped out a lot.”

“It gives us an idea of what it’s like in the real world,” Edwards said.

Trawick said the group’s work will help the foundation for many months to come, and their ability to find more than 3,000 former alumni will be critical to the future success of WCF.

“They’ve put together plans that I can use in the future, so the impact they’re having isn’t just this semester. It will continue as I’m able to roll out all these plans that they’ve put together for me,” Trawick said. “These are students who are experiencing a real world project, and they chose a nonprofit in our community, which is really special to me.”

Trawick also spoke of students from the University of Alabama who visited Walker County last summer to intern at various nonprofits.

“We have students from UA coming and doing work in Walker County, and we have students from UAB coming and doing work for Walker County. We should be really excited about that,” Trawick said. “Walker County is getting some exposure beyond the edges of its borders.”

The PR students have completed their time at WCF and did a presentation at UAB about their time in Jasper.

“We’ve been able to build a good relationship, and I think we’ve all grown through it as a group and individually,” Harvill said.

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