Public Relations Class Boosts State Organization
For many Asbury students, a project due the last week of classes represents one more hurdle to overcome before Christmas break. For students in professor Peter Kerr’s Public Relations class, though, the final project of the semester offered something more — a chance to encourage positive change in the state of Kentucky while gaining valuable professional experience.
Kerr’s Public Relations class partnered with the new Kentucky chapter of a national non-profit organization called Stop Predatory Gambling to raise awareness of the social, economic, and personal costs of predatory gambling (defined as gambling designed to prey on human weakness), as well as to raise funds for the organization’s continued work. To benefit Stop Predatory Gambling Kentucky (SPGKY), the class organized a “Protect the Commonwealth” gala event on Dec. 5 in Lexington, Ky.
A combination dinner and silent auction, the event served 60 guests from around the state, raising more than $2,600 to benefit SPGKY. Guests were treated to an appetizer, dinner and dessert, as well as presentations from Dr. Scott Hunt, a professor at Eastern Kentucky University in the School of Justice Studies, former University of Kentucky basketball player Cameron Mills, and SPGKY chairman John-Mark Hack. The silent auction featured more than 100 items, including gift baskets, gift cards, and donations from individuals and businesses across Central Kentucky. The highlighted auction item was a gemstone from Tanzania with a rose cut crown and a faceted pavilion, donated by Roger Dery Gem Design. The gemstone sold for $700.
Students worked hard on various aspects of the event throughout the course, some logging more than 40 out-of-class hours by the end of the semester. According to Kerr, the project appealed to the students’ sense of social justice.
“Students understand that slot machine gambling exacerbates societal inequality,” he said. “It takes money from the poor and gives it to the rich out-of-state casino owners just so our state government can tax the money to make up for its consistent deficits.”
Junior Rachel Dery, who was chosen by the class to serve as foreman for the project, says the class project provides real-world experience, making it a uniquely valuable opportunity for students.
“This project was about as real-world as you can get,” she said. “We invited Kentucky political, social, and business leaders, researched our cause and created a plan based on our analysis, organized a venue, food, speakers, entertainment, donations, and all the other details that go into planning a gala event. The experiences we had in organizing this event and campaign are exactly what we will do when we enter the workplace. We may have even worked harder to obtain the details needed because we are students working under financial and network constraints.”
Most of all, though, Dery says that the project was an opportunity to live out the love of Christ in the world by protecting the under-served.
“Studies have shown that predatory gambling is rooted in inequality, taking advantage of minorities, the impoverished, and the under-served in society,” she said. “This is not about political parties or the morality of gambling itself. This is about stepping up and protecting the poor.”