“This woman was tearing up in front of the class,” Professor Elaine Winship said. “I really think that students were extremely moved by Christina Metz, the senior vice president’s visit.”
Winship teaches a variety of Communication Arts classes at St. Thomas Aquinas College and she shared the work currently being undertaken by the students she leads in her Content Development for Public Relations and Social Media Marketing classes, as well as members of the Communication Arts Club.
These students are assisting a nonprofit organization called Baking Memories 4 Kids.
“This organization grants children with life-threatening or terminal illnesses dream vacations,” Winship said. Metz detailed how the organization is currently working on helping 48 families embark on inclusive travels for their children. These trips are to Florida’s various attractions, including amusement parks.
Winship recalled the visit of Metz and the impact that it had on her students. Metz shed some light on the organization and how it began during her visit. Metz is the cousin of the organization’s founder and president, Frank Squeo. Squeo himself was diagnosed with a terminal illness, advanced stage 3 testicular cancer. Squeo was an adult when he received his diagnosis, and luckily became cancer-free as Winship explains. However, Squeo felt that no family should have to endure the loss of a child, a life cut short. So, Squeo founded the organization with a purpose: to give memorable vacations to these children and their families in the hope of providing some level of joy.
Isabella Szklany was among the students who heard Metz speak about the organization. She was touched by the sadness Metz feels towards the abundance of families that need help and the reality that the organization helps as many as they can.
“I thought that Christina was amazing in all the work that she has done so far for Baking Memories 4 Kids and I felt how sad that she was at the fact that they had to turn away some families,” Szklany said. “I believe that every child going through a difficult time period or not should experience these happy memories that Baking Memories 4 Kids is providing for them.”
The term “baking” in the organization’s name is exactly what is done for people who make donations for the organization. Some of Winship’s students will be doing just that. They along with additional volunteers will visit Rockland Boces on Saturday, Nov. 9 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to help bake cookies to be sold to generate revenue to fund these trips. Winship also envisions the Communication Arts Club selling the cookies on campus through bake sales during the semester. Baking Memories 4 Kids accepts donations all year long, but cookies are specifically sold during November and December. The price people pay for the baked goods pays for the memories that these children and their families will always cherish.
“We eternally wish for a day when brave children do not have to experience these illnesses, but until that day comes our mission will be to create as many positive memories as we can, one cookie at a time,” the mission statement of Baking Memories 4 Kids reads.
Winship detailed the work her classes will undertake on this project. This includes a social media marketing and public relations plan as well as promotion of the organization. The work includes, but is not limited to, composing press releases for news organizations, writing blog posts, designing visuals, as well as utilizing the various social media platforms to get the message out to the target audience. Winship orchestrates the diversity of the student jobs based on their individual strengths. In turn, the students formulate ideas, and if Winship sees that the ideas help achieve the goals she outlines, she approves them.
And who is the target audience? Millennials. In fact, that is part of the reason why Baking Memories 4 Kids sought Winship’s students: they are in the age group targeted to be potential clients in the future. In other words, who better to reach millennials than a team of millennials themselves, equipped with skills in marketing and public relations?
Winship explained how students are learning to reach goals in terms of maximizing media coverage for the organization, while the organization is learning how to communicate to the millennial audience. The project of assisting the organization serves as a learning experience for Winship’s students and Baking Memories 4 Kids alike.
“We are so excited to be teaming up with St. Thomas Aquinas College. With the help of their amazing public relations and digital marketing ideas we will be able to send even more very sick children on these life-changing trips. We can’t thank [or] call everyone involved with this program enough. We look forward to implementing their marketing ideas immediately and continuing our partnership for years to come!” Squeo said.
Baking Memories 4 Kids to Winship has a local reputation as well as nationwide coverage through news organizations like The Today Show.
“My teaching style focuses on experiential learning because I understand that these students need marketable skills when they begin their job searches. And these projects give my students these skills. So that’s why I do it.”
-Professor Elaine Winship
“The students are extremely excited about this,” Winship said.
This is not Winship’s first time assisting an organization. In fact, Winship has earned a reputation for the work done by her students in the Social Media Marketing and Content Development for Public Relations classes, so much so that she does not even have to contact the representatives of organizations. In fact, it is the other way around.
“The STAC student reputation is strong,” Winship said. “The non-profits really come to me.”
In the past, her students have done work to help groups such as United Way of Rockland, People of Rockland County, and Penguin Plunge. Winship sees multiple benefits in the work that she has her students do every year. To her, they not only are learning what they must do when it comes to creating content for a company; they are actually applying the skills that they study. This, to Winship, leads to another benefit in itself: another valuable credential.
“This is a resume building experience,” Winship said, “So they’re not only learning about public relations and social media; they’re building their resume.”
Multiple students who majored in Communication Arts at STAC have earned internships and jobs as a result of working for a client in Winship’s Social Media Marketing and/or Content Development for Public Relations class. In fact, some of them even got to work for the clients they represented in her class. To Winship, putting such an experience on your resume and cover letter and discussing it in an interview is valuable and truly distinguishes the student. She also attributes future success of her students to her unique teaching approach.
“My teaching style centers around experiential learning, so students not only learn but also gain marketing skills that will help them be more successful when they begin their professional job search,” Winship said.
She truly sees the potential of her students to achieve media coverage of the upcoming event on Nov. 9 in addition to other events this semester, while also acknowledging that contrary to what anyone may say about millennials, that have compassion for those in need.
Winship echoed the sentiments of Metz in her visit to the class.
“Many of the children that receive these memory trips… really it’s the only vacation they have in their life,” Winship said.
* The address of Baking Memories 4 Kids is 306 Old Mill Road in Valley Cottage, NY 10989. For further information or to make a donation, visit bakingmemories4kids.com.