More than half a century ago, the Community Action Council (CAC) mobilized to fight poverty in central Kentucky. Organized by five local community activists in 1965, its mission today is to study, identify and find solutions for people seeking economic security by engaging directly with those in need and those who can help.
Among those helping CAC this semester are the students in Kerri Hauman’s Business Writing class. Their charge: getting 18-to-30 year olds more engaged with CAC.
“The CAC is a community partner I work with frequently, and so many of may classes work on projects for them,” Hauman explained.
This semester, that meant students taking Writing, Rhetoric and Communication 2214 dove into tackling a problem many nonprofits have — communicating with millennials and Generation Z. Four groups of students accepted that challenge and on Monday, at the start of finals week, presented their analysis to CAC directors and staff.
“The four presentations we heard today were chock full of wonderful strategies and suggestions for the Community Action Council to increase and retain engagement of young people ages 18 to 30,” said Melissa Tibbs, CAC’s director of planning, communications and advancement.
Students focused on four initiatives to better position CAC with their generational peers: use of social media, website enhancements, creating a campus ambassador program, and strengthening community engagement.
“The process of drafting and revising these projects allowed students to grapple with the concepts of the course and put them into practice in ways that reading out of a textbook or completing in-class exercises and writing assignments just cannot,” Hauman said.
“Each of the four groups were thoughtful in their approach, sensitive but thorough in their critique, and went beyond what was asked of them to articulate their vision for how to cultivate dynamic millennial involvement,” Tibbs said.
Having access to an invested community partner is critical to the learning environment for these business writing students. Just as critical was the advice of Transylvania staff, who stepped in to advise the students on the viability of their proposals.
“Imagine standing in front of seasoned community partners – some, almost complete strangers – and explaining them what they need to do to engage millennials and Gen Zs. It’s no easy task, but these students did it with confidence, respect and grace,” said Tevin Monroe, Transy’s AmeriCorps Vista community engagement support specialist. Monroe was one of several staff members who met with students as they prepared their presentations.
“I worked with the campus ambassador group on what it would look like, from the Transy staff perspective, for a student to take on the role of CAC Ambassador. They synthesized academic research, precedents at other institutions, and their real-world experience to describe how to build a bridge between CAC and the Transy student body. I’m very impressed with their work and their perspective,” Monroe said.
What happens now? CAC says they are ready to act on the students’ recommendations.
“We will be implementing many of their suggestions immediately, and using the research mentioned to help us plan for our future communications,” Tibbs said.