Former student and Keep Alachua County Beautiful intern steps up to be class guest speaker

When you plan for a guest speaker in class, you always have in the back of your mind the fact that the speaker may not be in class.

That’s especially true of guest speakers who work in the media and may have a change in their schedules from when they initially said “yes” to speaking in your class on a set day at a set time. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen very often.

Twitter is one way Keep Alachua County Beautiful is getting the word out about their activities. And my class was one of their activities today.

But it did happen today. Only about an hour before class was to start, I received that dreaded phone call.

Mickie MacKenzie, executive director of Keep Alachua County Beautiful and my guest speaker, was calling to say that she her mailbox had been broken into, and she would be spending time this afternoon with the sheriff’s deputies. She was to be our client for a news release about KABC’s Great American Cleanup event on April 17, with the students taking notes and then writing a news release.

As I was considering how much I knew about the event and if I could provide enough information for the assignment, Mickie said that her intern Stephanie Panico would take her place. Stephanie was going to be coming to class, too, to talk about her internship, but she certainly was taking on a bigger role.

Stephanie is a former student in Writing for Mass Communication and was really pleased to be back talking with the students in the course now. She did an excellent job of being our client. She knows the event well from her work with KACB this semester. And she and Mickie had talked by phone when Mickie told Stephanie that she would be speaking to the class — and Stephanie had notes from that phone call.

Stephanie Panico discussed plans for Keep Alachua County Beautiful's Great American Cleanup event. I took the photo with my iPhone as I interviewed Stephanie.

Only about 20 percent of the students had heard of the Great American Cleanup. About 10 of the 200+ students had participated in the cleanup event. Stephanie explained the relationship between Keep America Beautiful and Keep Alachua County Beautiful. She talked about the event — from the places that would be included in the cleanup to the sponsors to what to wear to participate. She answered dozens of questions, as students worked to understand KACB and the event. She was clear, helpful and obviously very positive about the work of KACB.

I also asked her to talk about the role of social networking in her work. She had participated in a Keep America Beautiful webinar that had discussed how to use Twitter and Facebook in a business setting — moving beyond using the sites to talk about yourself to using the sites to create an awareness of, a following for and an interest in the organization. It’s important for our students to realize the social networking activities that are part of their personal lives can become skills for them in their professional lives.

Between the two lectures, Stephanie met with students who were interested in talking with her about her internship with Keep Alachua County Beautiful and her advice for them as public relations majors. Stephanie will be graduating at the end of summer semester. The six students who met with her are just starting their courses in the college.

I really enjoyed hearing Stephanie offer advice about getting multiple internships to realize how different public realations work can be. Last summer, she had an internship in New York City in the fashion industry. Although she had loved living in NYC, she said she found the work with her internship with Keep Alachua County Beautiful to be more purposeful. She was helping make a difference, she said. I agree.

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