By Meg Boyd
At the beginning of every term, Philadelphia University students are challenged to create products with Deb Levy, the late mother of ChemoClothes founder Jared Levy, in mind. The organization’s tagline is hope you can wear so products have ranged from jewelry and yoga mats to dream catchers, clutches and pajama boxer shorts. The products are sold at an on-campus pop-up shop and have yielded over $40,000 to support cancer-related costs.
Inside the hallways of St. Michael’s Lutheran church, the hearts and minds of a local Philadelphia community continues to be impacted through Rock to the Future. Using the power of music education, this youth development organization prepares the next generation for every stage through instruction on “rock” instruments, peer collaboration, live performance, and social and academic support. The MusiCore afterschool program boasts 100 percent post-secondary education attendance rate.
Both programs are successful, in part, due to Bill Cowen, Ed.D., a PR practitioner, professor and philanthropist who was feted as PPRA’s 2017 Hall of Fame recipient. When serving as the organization’s president in 2009, he launched Philly PRoactive, a program that pairs PPRA members with nonprofits that need PR assistance. His primary requirement was that chosen organizations have some kind of active support each year.
“I knew that we were an accomplished, creative and connected membership that could make a difference for worthy causes via PR strategy and professional support,” said Cowen. “The process was open to interpretation and customization so that each president could run the program in any way he or she wanted.”
The relationships have proven both successful and sustainable. I was fortunate to be a partner and provide PR counsel for two organizations in the program’s early years.
Paired with Communications Support owner Lauren Somers, we created a communications plan for ChemoClothes that included pitching, writing releases and working with the media. One idea proposed to Philadelphia University to work with the students has resulted in a long-term partnership. The Fashion Merchandising and Management degree program students develop over 200+ units of merchandise and work on a project across three courses including Global Fashion Insight, Retail Strategy, and Visual Merchandising. “The students have the opportunity to engage in program development, marketing, and merchandising while keeping the client in mind. The outcome is connected to a real-world mission that is having an impact on families,” said Program Director Nioka Wyatt.
Rock to the Future realized similar benefits through the program. The organization was partnered with a number of PPRA volunteers, including Nina (Scimenes) Roderbaugh, Brulee Catering’s Communications and Marketing Manager, and myself. We provided a communications plan and specific PR ideas such as a collaboration with the Curtis Institute of Music.
Rock to the Future has grown from working with 13 students in an afterschool program to serving hundreds of underserved Philly youth each year through after school, in-school, and summer programming, with 99 percent of students attending at no cost. As an Eagles Care Partner, it celebrated their annual ball this year at Lincoln Financial Field, raising more than $40,000 for its educational programs. Rock to the Future continues to live its motto: “Learn. Grow. Rock.”
At the Hall of Fame luncheon held in his honor, Cowen discussed the importance of having grace and dignity — important aspects for volunteers working with the Philly PRoactive program. “I am very pleased the program is alive and well and still helping others here in the region,” said Cowen.
Meg Boyd is currently a communications specialist for AmeriHealth Caritas where she is responsible for creating content and increasing engagement for 1500 colleagues in Enterprise Operations.