WVU public relations students partner with local organization to make a difference for students with disabilities
Eight West Virginia University students in the P.I. Reed School of Journalism are partnering with PACE Enterprises and Monongalia County high schools to increase awareness of the services that PACE provides to adults with disabilities.
PACE is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to providing employment for people with disabilities. One group that PACE focuses on is recent high school graduates. The goal of the partnership is to increase special education teachers’ awareness of the employment opportunities available to graduates with disabilities.
Members of the campaign are from Dr. Rita Colistra’s public relations capstone course. They include Marissa Middleton of Mount Laurel, N.J.; Ashley Collins of Morgantown, W.Va.; Zachary Brant of Charleston, W.Va.; Hannah Eaves of Charles Town, W.Va.; Sarah Broadwater of Clarksburg, W.Va.; Bill Dooley of Cape May, N.J.; Alexis D’Anton of Toms River, N.J.; and Erin Zipf of Mechanicsburg, Pa. Throughout the semester, they have visited local high schools to gauge current knowledge about PACE and its services and to determine what information teachers need to help their students with post-secondary employment.
“We all feel really passionate about PACE and what it is trying to accomplish,” said Middleton, public relations senior and the team’s account executive. “Many of the group members have family members with disabilities, so this campaign feels personal to us.”
One reason West Virginia needs programs like PACE is because it leads the nation in citizens with disabilities. If the campaign is successful in spreading knowledge of the PACE foundation locally, it may be able to further expand into other areas of West Virginia in the future.
“Our commitment to partnering with small businesses in the community helps create more employment opportunities,” said Bob Pirner, director of development at PACE. “We attempt to find a job for everyone who comes here based on their abilities, not disabilities.”
The team has conducted surveys and interviews with special education teachers and principals in the three Monongalia County high schools to determine what information was needed about employment opportunities at PACE. As a result, the students are currently creating information packets and are planning a teacher field trip to tour the facility and meet with PACE representatives.
The students hope that the campaign will serve as the beginning of a permanent partnership between PACE and the Monongalia County high schools.
“It would be fulfilling to know that our campaign helped create a long-term partnership that benefits everyone involved,” said Middleton.
For more information about PACE Enterprises, call 304-983-7223 or visit www.paceenterprises.org.
CONTACT: Erin Zipf, campaign public relations director
Alexis D’Anton, campaign public relations director,
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