West Virginia University P.I. Reed School of Journalism public relations seniors are taking the lead in raising public awareness of equine-assisted therapy. As the final project of their college career, capstone students are gaining real-world experience in healthcare public relations working with the therapy center, On Eagles’ Wings, located in Fairmont, W.Va.
By using social media, media relations and brand development strategies, the group is planning and executing a full public relations campaign, including special events, fundraising activities, a new web site, Twitter account and Facebook page.
The students have created their own agency, Better Tomorrow Public Relations, to raise awareness of the center’s services. They’re working under the direction of Chuck Harman, School of Journalism adjunct instructor.
“We have developed a campaign that provides our client with necessary community awareness, and in return, we are gaining real-world experience,” said Lynne Stabler, of Abbottstown, Pa. “Better Tomorrow PR is a fantastic stepping stone for my future career because it is giving me experience in teamwork, agency and client work and other skills I need to be a public relations professional.”
The students work directly with Dr. Carol Petitto, the executive director of On Eagles’ Wings and a School of Journalism alumna. The organization serves adults and children with physical, cognitive, emotional and social disabilities and challenges in north central West Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania, providing therapeutic riding lessons, hippotherapy and other equine-assisted therapies and activities.
“I am very grateful for the work the students are doing for On Eagles’ Wings,” said Petitto. “This was the year we really wanted to begin reaching out to the community and let people know who we are, so everything really seemed to fall into place. The timing has been perfect. Our needs coincided with the work of the class. It is really helping the awareness of our services.”
Natalie Doerr of Pittsburgh, Pa., says the combined efforts of her classmates and that of On Eagles’ Wings is making a difference within the organization and the community.
“The work that Carol and her volunteers are doing for people with disabilities is amazing and life-changing,” said Doerr.
The School of Journalism offers the alternative capstone course each semester for public relations students interested in working in the healthcare industry. Students are assigned a client in the healthcare industry and must plan and execute a public relations campaign throughout the semester.
Other students involved in Better Tomorrow Public Relations are: Leigh Ashby of Summersville, W.Va; Blair Dowler of Parkersburg, W.Va.; Breanne Hill of Morgantown, W.Va.; Taylor Scarnato of Harrisburg, Pa.; and Lauren Sobon of Ellicott City, Md.
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CONTACT: Blair Dowler