Student Campaign Spreads Word About National Guard Program for Families in Need

Journalism students with National Gaurd
(L-R) Journalism students Fearon Hosmer and Leila Durmaz, Colonel Laura Yeager, students Madison Halvorson and Emma Patterson, and Colonel Patti Tackett met in Kennedy Library following the students' presentation to the California Army National Guard.

by Will Peischel

Students in journalism Professor Dan Eller’s public relations class have created a campaign for the California National Guard that is the first of its kind for both the guard and the Journalism Department.

For three successive quarters in 2013-14, teams of students enrolled in JOUR 415, Advanced Public Relations Practice, worked on plans to help the guard spread the word about a new fund designed to help members in need and their families.

It was the first time that the class took on a single client for the entire academic year, with each quarter’s class picking up where the one before left off. It was also the first time the National Guard had reached out to Cal Poly journalism students for assistance with its communications needs.

The partnership came about largely through the efforts of Professor Kirk Sturm, who is also a judge advocate for the California National Guard. Sturm teaches in the Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Administration (RPTA) Department and has also taught Public Relations Writing and Editing in the Journalism Department.

Sturm understood the huge opportunity for the two entities and the chance to break new ground in supporting California citizens who have answered the call of duty. Eller agreed and was enthusiastic about getting students involved with the guard.

“It’s about your community,” Eller said. “Who do you think the fire department and the police department call when they’re stretched beyond capacity? When San Bruno blows up? When there’s a riot in a city? The National Guard is the ultimate public safety agency.”

When guard members are called to duty, they inevitably must leave for the duration, which can cause financial and emotional strain on their families.

A new fund was developed to help alleviate some of the complications that accompany deployment. This new fund was the result of a state bill that legalizes private donations to the California National Guard that can be used on an as-needed basis and at the agency’s discretion.

“Some of the things that have been discussed were paying for families to go camping,” Eller said, “and to have some time to decompress and recharge as an individual and as a family.”

Students presented their work in early June to the guard’s senior leadership team. The presentation covered everything from redesigning the California National Guard logo to guidelines on developing brochures.

“The leadership group was so excited about what happened, they called the top-ranking soldier in California, the adjutant general, General David Baldwin,” Sturm said.

The students’ recommendations are still making their way through the guard hierarchy. Whether they’re adopted in whole or in part, Eller said he is proud of the students’ work.

“Whatever we can do here at Cal Poly is our way to show support and give back,” Eller said. “We’re fully committed to it. We have a lot of stories to tell; I’m glad that we’re able to tell this one.”




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