Volunteers for the Country Roads BBQ Clash, including WVU football players, celebrate a successful event. Photo Credit: Temitayo Adesokan
Rebecca Boyd and Taylor Steele were wrapping up their senior year when Elizabeth Oppe, teaching associate professor in the College of Media, asked for help to plan and promote the local Hoss Foundation’s annual fundraiser, which was forced to move from spring to summer. Boyd and Taylor were all-in, even if it meant working on the event after graduation.
“We took this opportunity head-on and jumped right into it,” said Boyd, who recently started a position as a digital content strategist at MyBuckhannon, a digital marketing and news agency in Buckhannon, West Virginia. “Working with the community has become a huge part of my life, thanks to Dr. Oppe. Her passion for community involvement trickled into my job search.”
When Oppe joined the College of Media 10 years ago, she contacted the WVU Center for Community Engagement to pair her classes with nonprofit community agencies. As a result, the Hoss Foundation, a Morgantown nonprofit that helps families facing hardships, has been a long-time partner that regularly works with her advertising and public relations capstone students.
“It is a mutually beneficial relationship,” explained Oppe. “The Foundation gets help marketing their event and the students gain valuable experience.”
This spring, Oppe’s capstone class was once again working with the Hoss Foundation when their fundraising event was pushed to the summer, which left the Foundation searching for event planning and marketing help when most students were on summer break. Oppe put together a team that included May graduates Boyd and Steele and current Advertising and Public Relations senior Kylie Bennett.
The student team planned and promoted the Country Roads BBQ Clash, a cookoff competition and festival that was hosted at Mylan Park. They attended planning meetings, wrote a press release that was distributed to 75 newspapers across West Virginia and surrounding states and developed and distributed social media graphics and announcements.
The event included craft vendors, food trucks, children’s activities and musical acts. All proceeds went toward the addition of a floor that will provide resources to patients’ families in the new WVU Medicine Children’s Hospital.
“There is a certain type of student who wants to work with the community,” Oppe said. “They are compassionate. They do it out of the goodness of their heart, and you can’t teach that. You can teach them how to write and how to do public relations, but you can’t teach them heart. They just have that.”