The Office of Regional Stewardship at Eastern Kentucky University is continuing its work within the University’s service region and Promise Zone with a new project called Promise Zone Profiles. Three EKU public relations student interns will work with high school students in eight counties to find untold stories of success and publish them on social media and the Promise Zone website.  

With the help of some grant funding from Brushy Fork Institute, through a larger funding stream from the Appalachian Regional Commission, the interns will spread good news stories about the area and its citizenry. The profiles project, inclusive of a social media and web campaign, will capture regional and personal histories to provide context for the continued growth in the culture, artisan and crafts skills and knowledge that helped create such resilient people and places, with a goal of eroding negative stereotypes.

The interns will work as consultants with high schools within the Promise Zone, editing and revising student profile pieces and overseeing photography that will be used to spread the everyday success stories found throughout the area. The profiles will “engage students to tell their stories and take pride in their heritage,” shaping the image of the people and places of the Promise Zone.

During this summer and heading into the fall semester, Office of Regional Stewardship Director Melissa Newman and Outreach Specialist Maggie Bill, along with student interns, are working with Sandi Curd, Promise Zone coordinator, to spotlight the achievements and successes of people in the Promise Zone, which encompasses eight counties in southeastern Kentucky: Bell, Clay, Harlan, Knox, Leslie, Letcher, Perry and Whitley.

Newman, who over the years has placed interns throughout eastern Kentucky through EKU’s Office of Regional Stewardship, is excited that the project fulfills regional needs while helping students become more competitive in the job market.

"Our students are gaining valuable experience while working in EKU's service region," Newman said. "This experience has already proven to be a win, for both the student and the employers. Students get better jobs upon graduation and leave the University with amazing portfolios, and the interns’ employers gain the expertise they need from EKU students."

The Promise Zone profiles will serve four purposes: to inspire others to do good works and further spread a vision of hope rather than defeatism; to show the true face of people who live in The Promise Zone; to market The Promise Zone to the rest of the world through the best advertising possible; and to engage high school administrators and students in the Zone with helping to shape the story of their own communities.

“We are excited to work with these students to tell the often overlooked stories from the promise zone,” Bill said. “This project is unique in that it provides experience that can be used on resumes and as portfolio pieces for both the high school student and the college intern.”

The interns are well versed in all aspects surrounding a successful media campaign and project management, which is why they were chosen to consult and lead this project. Jared Barnard, Kelly Arnold and Kamille Johnson will collaborate, using skills they have developed at EKU, to make each profile a social media and internet success.

Barnard will receive a bachelor’s degree this fall in creative public relations with an emphasis in music industry. Recently, Barnard interned with Epic Proportions Tour in Phoenix, taking unsigned bands on tour, writing press releases and managing social media accounts so the bands could build a fan base and stay connected with the media. He was also involved in many other internships and supporting organizations.

Arnold is a public relations major, graduating in Spring 2018. She has developed important skills from her education at Eastern and past internships, such as writing, research and effective communication. Arnold has held internships in the Small Business Development Center and the Center for Economic Development and gained additional experience at significant conferences at EKU, such as the 2015 Kentucky Education in Economic Engines Conference and the 2016 East Kentucky Leadership Foundation Conference.

In May 2015, Johnson received an EKU Work Seals certificate, and went on to earn Dean’s List honors in Fall 2016. She plans to use her strong social media presence to help boost the awareness and effectiveness of the Promise Zone project. Her personal Instagram account totals nearly 3,500 followers.

Regional Stewardship staff and Curd are also excited to work with Dr. Jim Gleason, associate professor in EKU’s Department of Communication. Gleason, who teaches public relations, will serve as a consultant on the project, assisting students on various campaign plans for the project.

“The Promise Zone Profiles project is a great opportunity for our public relations students, both for the experiences they’ll gain and for the valuable contacts they’ll make across EKU’s service area,” said Gleason. “I’m excited to be a part of it.”