Devin Taylor

Now that the semester is drawing to a close, I’d like to use this blog post to reflect on my experience as the very first Ferst Foundation intern (what a mouthful!). To say it’s been a challenging semester for me would be an understatement – if you’ve read past blog posts of mine, you might remember that I took 24 credit hours this semester. Although this internship was only worth three credit hours, I feel that I put much more effort into it than my other classes, which are also three credit hours each.

At the very beginning of the semester, there were several things that I was completely unsure of, as far as how I would go about accomplishing them. I remember having a conversation with my mom about this uncertainty and her advice was simply to get creative. She said, “You’ve got a good head on your shoulders and you know how to get things done. Just devote yourself to the project and you’ll find a way to figure it out.” As it turns out, she was right. There was really no right or wrong way to go about accomplishing most tasks on my list this semester – all it took was dedication and creativity on my part. In most instances, the first solution to a problem that came to my mind ended up being the most effective way to tackle it. I recently met with the intern who will take my place, and she expressed doubts over how to accomplish several of the tasks on her list, too. I passed along my mom’s advice, and I’m just sure it will prove useful to her too.

As I mentioned earlier, I put more effort into this internship than any of my other courses, by far. I would even venture to say that I’ve put more effort into this internship than any course I’ve taken in my entire academic career – it was that important to me. Not only was I dedicated to the organization because I signed on to be just that, but the Ferst Foundation holds a special place in my heart. I developed a passion for the organization and its mission in the fall semester of 2014, while I worked on designing a campaign for it. Because of this passion, I felt a personal responsibility to do whatever was in my power to help the Ferst Foundation grow. I worked harder than I ever have, and it’s been equally as fulfilling. Before this internship, I was skeptical that I would find a career path I’d be happy in. After this experience, I’ve realized that the key is to find a career in something I’m passionate about, and clearly I’m on the right track by searching for something in the nonprofit sector.

This internship has had a great impact on me in a variety of ways. Most of all, I’ve learned more about myself. I’ve tested the limits of how much I’m able to accomplish when I really apply myself. I’ve explored my own interests and learned more about what my ideal career path looks like. I’ve been given opportunities and forged connections with people who have been great mentors to me. After this internship, I’m much more prepared to step out into the real world and search for a career. Saying that I’m grateful for the experience would be an understatement; I’m truly blessed to have been offered this opportunity. I only hope that any students that fill the position after me utilize this opportunity to its fullest potential, too.

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Balancing it all: Advice for the intern that takes my place

By Devin Taylor

Although I won’t reveal who it is in this blog post, I’ve been able to secure a Ferst Foundation intern for the summer and fall semesters (yay!). My entire life (or so it feels) has revolved around the Ferst Foundation for the past two semesters, so as it comes time for me to graduate, finding a successor to fill in for me was at the top of my list of priorities. I truly care about this organization; I’ve worked closely with the Volunteer Coordinator and spent numerous long hours working on building the Ferst presence in the Columbus area, so I want to ensure that it continues to thrive in the future. For this blog post, I’d like to take time to compile a list of advice I have for the intern who will replace me.

  1. The most important thing, I think, is to make a commitment to the organization to do whatever you can to help it grow. There are several circumstances that will help you here. First, this organization’s mission is one that is universal: helping to create a more educated society (and in doing so, helping solve a host of other societal problems). Because of this, more people will be willing to aid in the Ferst mission, whether that means donating, getting involved, or simply helping to spread the word. I truly don’t believe there is a person out there who could honestly say that they don’t support the Ferst Foundation cause. In addition, the Volunteer Coordinator, Warren Steele, will basically grant you free reign to focus your energy wherever you want, as long as it’s on helping to grow the organization, and as long as you communicate with him (although the internship does include several written standards that must be met). Use this free reign to develop innovative strategies with which to spread the word about the Ferst Foundation. Lastly, you’re a student at CSU, and that, in itself, gives you countless resources. Free printing, professors who have valuable connections in the area, access to technology that will help you produce top-notch materials. You’re lucky: other interns might be made to make copies or go on coffee runs, but you have the opportunity to truly make a difference in the success of the Muscogee Ferst Foundation. Use it.
  1. As you know, this internship is a different one: instead of reporting to a local office building and clocking in to log your hours, you get to work from home and keep track of your hours by yourself. You must log 150 hours, as stipulated by the internship outline, and that means 10 hours per week. Don’t fall behind on these. Because there’s no one there to make sure you’re being productive, you have got – I repeat – you HAVE GOT to be disciplined and make sure you devote ample time to Ferst. As I’ve explained before, my world revolved around the Ferst Foundation this semester. That said, I understand that future interns may not be as focused on the Ferst Foundation as I was (I had to be – I didn’t have a choice), so my number one concern is that they stay diligent. To keep track of hours, create an Excel spreadsheet and be sure to log the times you started and finished working on Ferst-related things, as well as the dates. This will greatly aid you when it comes times to submit your hours in order to receive a grade. Personally, I spread my hours out over the course of five days each week – Monday through Friday – which translated to two hours per day. That’s very doable, and won’t leave you feeling overworked at the end of the week. Because you work from home, these two hours could fall at any time during the day, depending on what task you’re working on. Frequently, I worked on tasks during the evening and into the night, because that was most convenient to me. This internship gives you a beautiful thing in its flexibility; just be sure to stay on top of things.
  1. Understand that with this internship opportunity, you have the power to unlock a vast amount of career opportunities for yourself after graduation. You have the opportunity to get real-world experience, and this is no joke. If you want to learn a certain skill to use in a future career, learn it in terms of the Ferst Foundation (this semester I wanted to develop my skills in maintaing media relations, so I helped foster a relationship between local media and the Muscogee Ferst Foundation). If there’s something in particular you feel you don’t quite understand or want to learn more about, don’t hesitate to ask. Your supervisor is a retired Senior Vice President of Aflac, so he has tons of great experience you can personally learn from. What it boils down to is this: if you work hard and do everything you can to benefit the Ferst Foundation, you will in turn be benefitting yourself.

This internship is challenging, academically and professionally, but it’s very doable. The only thing that will determine how much progress you’re able to make on behalf of the Ferst Foundation is your own will to do so; there are no other obstacles in your way. Take this opportunity and run with it. You’ll be so happy you did. Of course, if you ever have any questions or feel you’ve reached a road block, don’t hesitate to call me. Although I’m moving on, the Ferst Foundation is close to my heart and I’m always happy to help in any way I can. Good luck!

Devin Taylor

It is such a great feeling when you create something – from your own mind, heart and hands – and it goes on to have a large impact on other people. That’s pretty much how I’ve felt every single time I’ve gotten to play my “If You Read to Me” audio PSA for other people in the past few weeks.

I wrote this PSA last semester while designing the Ferst Foundation campaign as part of a team. From the get-go, it was pretty clear this PSA would affect people in a big way, because it used a child’s voice to deliver the message (thus utilizing the emotional appeal of pathos). The original PSA was written in a video format, and was changed a little to fit an audio format this semester. The script is as follows:

[Start: Background music]

Man: “Parents, teachers and friends. Thank you for your support as we graduate on this day and pursue our goals. We are here because you believed in us.”

Sound byte: Applause

Announcer: “30% of our nation’s children begin school unprepared to learn. Two-thirds of those that haven’t caught up to grade-level reading by the fourth grade will end up in jail or on welfare.”

Child: “If you read to me, I’ll gain the tools I need to get better grades in school, become a good person, and go farther in life. If you read to me, one day I’ll read to you.”

Announcer: “For more information about how our community can overcome these statistics, visit muscogeecountyferstfoundation.org.”

[End]

Thankfully, a member of my team in the Management class brought her boyfriend (who is really experienced with recording audio) along on the day we recorded, and he was able to produce the PSA for us. The child we recorded is an actual participant in the Ferst Foundation program, making his part all the more special. With this project, we really hit the mark; every person who has heard it has either shed a tear, cracked a big smile, or both. It’s a good one, and it’s powerful because of the child’s voice. This project has taught me a lot about producing really great work in the public relations world: you simply cannot accept anything less than top-notch quality. As the Muscogee Ferst Intern, I did just that, and it’s paid off tenfold. I’ve had multiple people tell me that they’ve heard the “If You Read to Me” PSA on radio stations in the area, and many more comment on the power the commercial has to move people. It’ll certainly be a valuable tool for the Ferst Foundation to use in the future, and I’m so grateful I was able to play a part in bringing the idea to life.

My internship position was created as part of a public relations campaign designed last semester in Dr. McCollough’s Campaigns class. At the same time I served as Muscogee County Ferst Foundation Intern over the course of the semester, the campaign that initiated it was being executed in the PR Management class, which I was also a part of. Needless to say, the lines were a little blurred for me. Rather than seeing my internship as a separate entity from the actual Ferst campaign, I saw it as falling within the campaign. Anything I did as part of my internship also benefitted the campaign as a whole. With all of that exposure to nonprofit work, I received a big dose of how things work in the real world.

Devin Taylor

One of the most valuable things I learned is that in this line of work, there is no other way to accomplish things than to be proactive – you simply cannot be reactive and expect quality work to produce itself. That point was driven home for me during the process of building media relations for the local Ferst chapter.

Back in February, I was tasked with orchestrating a check presentation ceremony when Muscogee Ferst received a $10,000 grant from CarMax. Initially, we had wanted to hold a press conference and invite all local media to attend, but as I would find out, that wasn’t likely to happen. I began reaching out to all media in the Columbus area: print media such as the Ledger-Enquirer, the Columbus Times, Valley Parent Magazine and others, as well as broadcast media like WLTZ and WTVM. From all broadcast media, I got no response. Print media yielded more results, but only by a little. I actually had to send several emails and make several phone calls before the story was picked up, but those who did feature it agreed to run a press release rather than send a reporter to cover a press conference. Eventually, my press release was featured in the Ledger-Enquirer, and Valley Parent agreed to do an actual story about the Ferst Foundation – not just our press release.

As part of the Ferst campaign (executed this semester in Dr. McCollough’s PR Management class), my team attempted to land an interview on the Dee Armstrong show for Warren Steele. I will whole-heartedly admit that my team could’ve done a much better job on this – we weren’t proactive, we were reactive. We didn’t actively contact the Dee Armstrong show and instead merely waited for them to get back to us. This, compared to my success with print media in the area, would turn out to be a huge learning experience for all of us. Clearly being proactive – actively working to make an end goal happen – is the only way to go in public relations, and nearly every other line of work. It seems like a no-brainer, but actually experiencing it myself has taught me so much about how to get things done in the real world. I’m very grateful for this experience.

Chelsea Anne Person – CSU Athletics

That’s a Wrap, Folks!

All semester I have been planning and prepping for the first-ever Girls in the Game Advance Initiative luncheon at my internship with CSU Athletics. When I began my internship in January, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I understood planning an inaugural event would be challenging and time consuming but could not foresee all the challenges that would come.

As the weeks and months passed myself and the other members of the planning committee worked diligently. I personally experienced the importance of internal communication and maintaining group morale. Dr. Gibson’s Group Communication course crossed my mind in times when I recognized our team “norming” and “storming”.

The last two weeks my main focus was finalizing all of our print materials, pitching to media and following up with media. Despite discussing press releases for the last three years in classes, actually sending one that would land in a reporter’s inbox was frightening. What if they thought the event wasn’t newsworthy? What if I wrote too much? What if the email landed in the dreaded spam folder? All these thoughts crossed my mind.

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Girls in the Game Advance Imitative program, brochure and notebook/pen gift set I deigned for the inaugural event help on April 30, 2015 at the RiverMill Event Centre in Columbus, Georgia.

However, here is what I found to be true. Because I provided these individuals with a quality, local angel and wrote polite and honest emails, I received all positive responses. I wasn’t able to land a primetime news segment or morning show appearance but I got some really great feedback from reporters.

One reporter I reached out to had some initial questions and criticisms. I responded to them as best I could and listened to his advice. This same individual was also kind enough to talk to me briefly about my internship. He was genuinely complimentary and interested in the work I was doing which made my life way less stressful. He also gave me tips for the future. Later on when I thanked him for his advice, he said because I listened to his initial criticism instead of getting defensive, I was easier to help.

Turns out people do like to help other people; media and PR go hand in hand. I witnessed this firsthand.

The Girls in the Game Advance Initiative luncheon was a success. I had countless attendees approach me to express their gratitude and admiration. My favorite quote of the day came from one attendee as she walked out of the room. As I was talking one of my planning committee teammates, she approached us and said, “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me to bring my daughter! I’m bringing her next year!”

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The stage at the inaugural Girls in the Game Advance Iniative luncheon on Thursday, April 30 2015 at the RiverMill Event Centre in Columbus, Georgia.

That was the icing on the cake. That woman experienced exactly what we had dreamed of: an event celebrating women’s sports and leadership that attendees would fall in love with and anticipate for the years to come.

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Todd Reeser, CSU Athletic Director & my internship supervisor and I (Chelsea Person) at the first-ever Girls in the Game Advance Initiative luncheon on April 30, 2015 at the RiverMill Event Center in Columbus, Georgia.

You can read my release about the event at csucougars.com. I am so thankful for the opportunity I had to be apart of such an amazing event. I experience immense personal growth and joy through the entire process.

Neil Entz

Blog

For this week, I had the privilege help Chris with a silent auction. The silent auction was my first time doing an event like this, which was cool. The event hosted by Hope Harbour. The event was to help auction the local work and let public get to know Hope Harbour. In the shoot, I had to get pictures and help show l how successful the event can be. It was a great turn out with plenty of happy people. I had to move quick to get the right framing for the shots. It can be quite the challenge.

Also this week, I helped surveying areas to do the Nami video with Matt. Nami is a nonprofit that needs some promotional material and I was working with Matt. We both were able to chat with how we could shoot it and got a storyboard. We got some shots from the top of a parking garage showing the daily activates. The other was shots of the river walk and people carrying out about their day. I got to see how to compensate for not having the most high tech equipment with some basic tricks to get the same effects.

The last thing I did this week was to help with final portion to the Scott’s ride documentary. The last part was filming Scott Ressmeyer from the Miracle Riders. It was an emotional piece with being the last of the rides. It was hard to shoot with it being such a crowded area and how we are going to shoot it. I helped Ben when the Miracle riders made their way to start their journey. We only had one shot and we got it.

Conner Davis

This week was not as busy as most other weeks. The Boys and Girls Club has been preparing for an event that was held yesterday called The Family Fit Challenge. The event was at Memorial Stadium next to the Civic Center. Kids from all five clubs were in attendance and participated in sixteen different on-field activities. There were about 550 kids overall in attendance, and I helped monitor a small group of children from the East Club. It was kind of like a giant elementary school field-day, and it brought back a lot of great childhood memories! I am still working as the sponsorship and silent auction assistant with our annual Polo Cup in September. I plan to meet with the committee next week (finals week) and update them on my progress.