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Wooten's Service-Learning Promotes Health & Safety

Berea College Professor Billy Wooten was recently recognized by the Madison County Safety Coalition for his work in promoting health, safety and education with the help of his communications class.

L-R: Lloyd Jordison, Billy Wooten, Meta Mendel-Reyes

"It was an honor to be recognized by a Coalition of community members who dedicate their lives to promoting the safety and well-being of Madison County," says Wooten, who is assistant professor of speech communications and director of forensics at Berea College. "I am lucky to be part of such an effort."

The service-learning project for which Wooten was honored took place in May of last year. Wooten and SOCR (Students Organizing Community Relations), the public relations initiative of his Communications 301 class, worked with the coalition to put together an event called "The Party Zone." The event was designed to provide awareness of health and safety for college students and adults through fun and educational activities, entertainment, and the presentation of informational material. An estimated 120 people attended the event.

"Our goal was to bridge the gap between the college student population and the coalition's community partners," says Wooten. "We wanted to expose our students to the safety issues that the coalition members promote around the rest of the community."

Wooten first began his work with the coalition a couple of years ago, when Lloyd Jordison, the coalition's coordinator, approached him to "develop some collateral media materials to help promote their mission and unify some of their partners under one umbrella," says Wooten. "I was looking for a way to give my communication students practical experience in the public relations field, so I agreed."

This is not the first, nor the last time that one of Wooten's classes has been involved in promoting health and safety in the community. One of Wooten's goals is to teach students that "learning and service go hand-in-hand."

"Our service learning program at Berea provides me the opportunity to do two things I am passionate about," says Wooten. The first is to "provide my students with the hands-on experience to be successful in their communication-related careers," and second, "help serve those in the community who need support."

This short term, Wooten is teaching a public relations course centered on "Teens Talking Tobacco." In conjunction with Rodney Clark's film course, Wooten is working with the SADD Club (Students Against Destructive Decisions) at Madison Southern High School and the Madison County Health Department on developing a media campaign to promote tobacco awareness. Wooten's class is currently designing brochures, posters and bulletin boards for the campaign, as well as planning an unveiling event, and Clark's class is filming and recording public service announcements.

The unveiling event will be held in Madison Southern's auditorium on January 25 from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m., and will have an Academy Awards-style theme, complete with refreshments and a red carpet. The entire campaign will be then presented to the public.

Wooten's work in service learning will not stop there; next semester his Organizational Communication course will be forming the fourth incarnation of SOCR for the purpose of "working with local partners to produce a media kit targeted toward college students on the issues of sexual harassment and sexual assault."

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