Class spreads message about homelessness

At St. John’s, one professor is taking a unique approach to teaching by taking her students outside of the classroom.

Jane Paley, professor of public relations, uses her Public Relations Seminar Campaign class to integrate hands on learning and Vincentian values. She and her students have organized the “Hearts for the Homeless” campaign to benefit the homeless population of New York City, with a series of fundraising events.

Since the start of the semester, the class has raised more than $1000 and collected clothing to benefit a midnight run that will take place on Apr. 14. They hosted several events including one that took place on Valentine’s Day, where  students and teachers could buy and design cupcakes.

The class raised over $700 at an event during the Men’s Basketball game against DePaul on Feb. 23. Students raffled tickets for an autographed team ball signed by the players and coaches.

At other events, participants were allowed to trade in gently worn clothes for MVP points. All of the clothes will be donated during the midnight run.

Not only is this class raising money for the homeless, it is also teaching students what about public relations campaigns.

Paley noted that the class allows students to be more creative with their work.

“Students know how to use social media for personal use but now they are using it for a cause,” she said.

She also believes that the class will benefit them when they enter the job market.

“My motive is largely practical,” Paley said. “If they go into a job interview and they have demonstrable proof that they not only understand public relations theory but they have accomplished a public relations mission [which is] a big public relations objective.”

In previous years, the class has been held during the fall. Classes have hosted a Toy Drive for the holiday season, which has  become a St. John’s tradition.

Students react positively to the class, saying it allows them to express themselves and help others.

“The work that is put into this campaign is something that we can all take with us, and use it to reflect enthusiasm and eagerness in our personal resumes as well as when we enter into the job market,” Kayla Motoyama said.

Some are touched by witnessing the problem of homelessness in New York City firsthand.

“It really means a lot to me… so much negativity in society in terms of jobs being lost, people living in shelters and on the streets; so many aspects of homelessness people need to take into account,” senior Louis Romero said.

As an Academic Service Learning class, Paley says it fits well with the University’s mission.

“We are a Vincentian university, the opportunity to combine hardcore public relation techniques and service is a very important aspect of learning at St. Johns,” she said.

In regards to her students, Paley said this is one of her favorite classes to teach.

“I get very worked up because they are so creative and so dedicated and they know they’re doing it for such a good cause,” she said. “Semester after semester I am heartened by their motivation to do good. “