Since SUNY Fredonia is the heart of the Fredonia community, it only makes sense for the students to give back the way they know best.
This is how the Community Partners program came about in 2001. Since then, capstone public relations students have helped 19 not-for-profit, community-based organizations in a campaign to address their PR needs.
This year was a year of firsts, according to SUNY Fredonia President Dennis Hefner.
Community Partners picks three groups for program
"First of all we have a record-breaking number of students that are in the class, there are 37 students that are in the class this year.
Secondly, we had a record number of applications from non-profit organizations, there were 13 applications that came forward.
Third, this year instead of working with two organizations, the class for the first time ever will be working with three organizations.
OBSERVER Photo by Nicole Gugino
Pictured (left to right) are Janice Dekoff, Director of the Dunkirk Free Library, Jes-sica Dayton, Director for the Comp-rehensive Adolescent Pregnancy Preven-tion program at the YWCA of James-town and coordinator of the Chautauqua County Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition and Shane Hawkins, director of Infinity Visual and Performing Arts who represent organizations chosen for this year’s Community Partners Program.
And fourth, with there being so many deserving applications it was decided that the final decision would be turned over to the students, and they made the decision totally on their own and selected the organizations based on the needs your organizations had for public relations assistance," Hefner explained.
Hefner then announced the chosen organizations as Chautauqua County Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition, the Dunkirk Free Library and Infinity Visual and Performing Arts.
Hefner said that students at SUNY Fredonia are very involved with volunteerism in the community, but he is particularly proud of the Community Partners program.
"This melding together of real world experiences and helping community organizations to be better is exactly what universities should be doing because we are stewards of our community and I am very proud of the work that is done by these students," Hefner said.
Jessica Dayton, Director for the Comprehensive Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention program at the YWCA of Jamestown and Coordinator of the Chautauqua County Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition, was first to speak.
Dayton said one of the problems the coalition faces is it's made up of different youth and health organizations in the county, making funding difficult. Its goal is to raise awareness and impact community through reaching teens on their level and reaching out through social media.
Next, Janice Dekoff, Director of the Dunkirk Free Library, said the library was founded in 1904 with the intention of being a center for knowledge.
The library is continuing with the goal to be the community center of lifelong learning in the area with updates including the public computer center. She said she hopes the students can help maintain the increased interest the library has seen and raise awareness to new updates at the library.
Shane Hawkins, Director of Infinity Visual and Performing Arts in Jamestown, said the organization has been a repeat applicant in the competitive process.
"We need the help this year more than any other year. We've done a lot of new things at our program and we'd like to get the word out," Hawkins said.
She added Infinity was founded in 1998 in Jamestown for students to explore music and art under professionals. In the past few years the organization was revived and now offers many programs in music, art, theatre and dance.
She said she hopes the students can help raise awareness to what programs are offered.
Kaitlin Fassl, a student representative, said the capstone class is ready to help the community and gain experience at the same time.
"Fredonia is a second home for most of us and we are really honored to be given the opportunity to raise awareness for these three important non-profits. I know I can speak for everyone when I say it is so exciting that we are able to assist the community while shaping our own skills ... This program is what puts SUNY Fredonia students a step ahead when we graduate," Fassl said.
Fassl also thanked Hefner for all his help with the program.
"President Hefner, you are an essential part of our education and the success of the Public Relations major. You have been a huge supporter of us since the Community Partners program began in 2001 ... We would not have seen the amount of growth and advancement in our major or in the Community Partners program if it had not been for his support," she said.