Parkland nonprofits presented campaigns from UM students

School of Communication students interview members of Branches of Bravery. Photos courtesy School of Communication.

By Karina Valdes

School of Communication students interview members of Branches of Bravery. Photos courtesy School of Communication.

Parkland nonprofits presented campaigns from UM students

By Karina Valdes
Four nonprofits founded after last year's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas were this year's clients for the School of Communication's 25-hour PhilADthropy event.

Four nonprofits founded after last year's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas are better equipped in their fight for gun control reform and mental health awareness after the School of Communication's 25-hour PhilADthropy event last weekend. More than 100 University of Miami students and 32 alumni volunteered their time to create social media campaigns, merchandise, websites, logos, and more on behalf of the four organizations founded by MSD students and parents.

“I didn’t know what to expect, but you guys took the frontier for us," said Kai Koerber, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High and founder of Society Reform Corporation, an organization working to bring mental health to school curriculums. "You guys were really creative in coming out with new hashtags. It was really trendy. It was absolutely amazing. I’m at a loss for words."

In addition to Society Reform Corporation, the non-profits that received assistance from the students included:

  • Branches of Bravery, which is raising money to provide affected communities with relief funds for inspirational speakers, educational programs or supplies to rebuild;
  • ShineMSD, which is raising funds to make mental health a priority, and create arts and wellness programs around Parkland; and
  • Change the Ref, which is working to give the youth of America a voice to make informed decisions to enact change.

“These nonprofits were created out of necessity and the work that they did this year was incredible, but it was all about instinct and fight because they had no other choice,” said Meryl Blau, assistant professor of professional practice who founded PhilADthropy 10 years ago. “Now they have those organizations that are alive and they have these missions that they’ve put together. Change is slow and that requires sustainable messaging and branding and continuous work. That’s what I’m really hoping they got out of this night and that they can go into year two more powerful, more branded, more collected, to be able to do more, and make more progress."

PhilADthropy is the School of Communication’s annual 25-hour philanthropic event where students volunteer their time to help local nonprofits with their communication needs. Over the years, more than 100 South Florida not-for-profits have benefited from the work of the School of Communication students. 

“It’s our 10th anniversary and it’s a really special year for us in marking the amount of time we’ve been serving the community, but this is also one year since the massacre happened at Parkland," said Blau."They’re in our backyard and for us to be able to take this special year and dedicate it to something so incredibly important, it just felt right and a necessity."

Gregory J. Shepherd, dean of the School of Communication during the opening ceremony
Gregory J. Shepherd, dean of the School of Communication, welcomes PhilADthropy participants during the opening ceremony. 

The event started at 11 a.m. Friday, Feb. 22 with representatives from each group meeting with the student teams and sharing their organization's communication needs. That's when the UM students -- along with the returning alumni, many of whom took off time from work to fly to Miami for the event -- began their brainstorming and campaign creation. They worked through the night, fueled by power naps and caffeinated drinks, and by 10 a.m. Saturday were ready to present.

“This year PhilADthropy has a huge chunk of my heart in it," said Chloe Glenn, a senior majoring in creative advertising. ”I just really wanted to be here to work with the survivors. I got to know them over the last several months, and how amazing they are, and I just wanted to give it my all and give them the best work I could do.”

The presentation kicked off with a performance of the song "Shine," written in the aftermath of the shooting by MSD students Sawyer Garrity and Andrea Peña. Garrity and Peña were joined by ShineMSD members Isabela Barry, Alex Moscou, Jessica Bass and Delaney Metcalf in singing the powerful anthem.

The emotional performance was followed by each team's presentation.

For Shine MSD, a campaign to increase donations included promotional posters, rebranding, a reorganized website and social media strategies. For the arts camp hosted by ShineMSD, Camp Shine, the students came up with the idea to include the artwork created at the camp in a yearly showcase.

“They far exceeded my expectations. I really didn’t know what to expect and I was completely blown away by what I saw today at the presentation,” said Neil Bass, director and treasurer of ShineMSD. 

Branches of Bravery was completely rebranded with an updated logo, color scheme, marketing materials and a modernized website that is easier to navigate. The UM students also created an event called “Branches Together” that can be hosted across the nation and tailored to individual cities. The idea is to invite attendees to take part in a multi-faceted wellness experience and further the mission of Branches of Bravery in helping communities heal and grow after a tragedy.

Students working on Societal Reform Corporation created an updated logo, color scheme, and multiple ideas for merchandise and branding. The UM students also created a PSA to spread awareness on the organization and on eliminating the stigma associated with mental health and mindfulness. 

One of the campaigns UM students devised for Change the Ref created an emotional idea that will directly connect the NRA with the other side of the argument.

“There is sort of a cliché about building triumph out of tragedy, but it’s a cliché for a reason because it’s what good people do," said Gregory J. Shepherd, dean of the School of Communication during the opening ceremony. "Good people can trump evil by creating good things. By taking good actions, and that’s what you all have done in the year since that day and continue to do. So thank you for inviting us into your action, into your good, and helping you to make a difference."

Additional photos from PhilADthropy can be found on Facebook