Conestoga news

June 12, 2015 4:27 PM

PR students apply skills to support the community

Students in Conestoga’s Public Relations diploma and degree programs put their skills into practice this past term, raising more than $19,000 in total to support local charities.

The fundraising activities are part of the service learning component of both programs, and help students develop a deeper understanding of the impact and potential of effective public relations in creating community support and making a tangible difference for charitable causes.

This year’s projects integrated learning from multiple courses as students met with clients, created materials and planned and staged events to support local organizations.

Second-year students in the Bachelor of Public Relations degree program dedicated their efforts to supporting Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region (WCSWR). Eight teams of students planned and executed a fundraising and awareness project as part of their Project Management course.

Students raised almost $9,000 to support the organization’s Rebuild Haven House campaign, but according to Kourtney Beckman, fund development manager for WCSWR, the impact of their efforts went far beyond much-needed financial support.

“Special events not only raise money and much-needed supplies for our shelters,” said Beckman in a letter to the students and Professor Dave Barrett. “They raise awareness of the issues of violence and abuse. You have helped to educate your own social circle, your peers, family, fellow students and an even broader public. … We are proud to be your partner and so proud of your work.”

Teams of first-year students in the Public Relations diploma program were also challenged to plan and host special events in the community to support a charitable cause of their choice.

As part of their Event Planning course, students worked under the supervision of Professor Susan Chilton to plan, promote and host professional gatherings complete with a theme, donated venue and prizes. Enlisting event sponsors was an integral component of their efforts, as no budget was provided for staging the events.

Students raised more than $10,600 to support a range of community causes, including: Nutrition for Learning, Autism Speaks, Grand River Hospital Foundation, Free the Children, Lisaard House, International Christian Home of Cambridge, Ontario Veterinary College and KW Women’s Crisis Centre.

According to professor and diploma program coordinator Paula Barrett, providing public relations students with opportunities to work with real-world clients has many benefits.

“As the community becomes their classroom, students get the chance to become involved with real-world issues, to meet people and to see things that they wouldn’t have otherwise,” said Barrett. “These experiences, and the recognition of the impact of their efforts, contribute to students’ understanding of the profession and the importance of connecting corporations to the community.”

Conestoga’s School of Media & Design delivers both a two-year diploma program and a four-year degree program in Public Relations. For more information, visit