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College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Media, Film & Journalism Studies

Student Showcase

PR students partner with Denver nonprofit

Strategic communication students partner with local nonprofit to launch mentoring program for middle school boys

By Shannon Cross, MFJS Strategic Communication Graduate Student

Students in Prof. Nadia Kaneva's strategic communication seminar are working with a client in a public relations agency setting without ever leaving the classroom. The Spring 2012 students partnered with Smart-Girl, a Colorado nonprofit known for its success with mentoring tween girls, to launch a similar program for boys. Seminar students will assist with public relations efforts as the organization gets ready to implement its Smart-Guy program in two to four Colorado middle schools in September 2012.

Each spring quarter, the MFJS department gives seminar students the opportunity to work with a local nonprofit like Smart-Girl. Undergraduate and graduate students are split into teams and work as mini PR agencies to create a plan and collateral materials for the client. This unique class structure gives students real-world public relations experience, while the client receives free promotional assistance.

"Working with a community partner allows students to experience the practical challenges of solving a communication problem for a client," says Professor Kaneva. "At the same time, it is a chance to give back to the community and see how strategic communication can make a real difference."

Because of the class's focus on service learning in the local community, Professor Kaneva received a mini-grant from DU's Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning (CCESL). This grant allows students to execute some of their ideas, such as printing and binding collateral and providing modest refreshments for client meetings like a true PR agency.

"Smart-Girl is very excited to partner with Nadia's class," says Karen Silverman, Smart-Girl executive director. "Our budget and staff constraints often limit our public relations efforts, but with the students' help, we hope this campaign will raise awareness of the importance of mentoring programs to help middle school kids succeed both academically and socially."

About Smart-Girl Smart-Girl is a Colorado mentoring organization that helps tweens successfully navigate the turbulent times of middle school. For more information, visit