EDITORS NOTE: All of our students do amazing things, but some of them are actively working to help create change in our local communities. In today’s guest post, Rachel-Jean Firchau tells us about the fantastic things Chapman’s PRSSA is doing here in Orange County.

What creates a strong community?

Five students from Chapman University have partnered with the Woodcrest community in Fullerton, California, an economically diverse community in which neighbors are coming together to make positive changes in their neighborhood in the areas of safety, health, education, and personal success. During the month of February, the
Chapman University Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA)
 2015 Bateman Case Study Competition “Community Toolbox” Team, in collaboration with NeighborWorks Orange County (NWOC), is seeking to join the Woodcrest Resident Leaders in improving their neighborhood, one community building project at a time.

The Community Toolbox Team is a small group of selected public relations students (Amber Johnston ’15, Rachel Abbate ’16, Natalie Rossi ’17, Taylor Panconi ’17, and Rachel-Jean Firchau ’15) who have made it their mission to enact further change in the small but determined community through a campaign entitled “Community Toolbox: Building Stronger Neighborhoods.”

Throughout February, the students will assist with community building activities, like social media training (Feb. 10) and a pancake breakfast fundraiser and community garden event (Feb. 21). Other tools, such as community engagement through social media, materials for disaster relief, community engagement pledges, and explanations of business tools like LinkedIn for NWOC use, will be taught as well. As the campaign’s name implies, the team’s ultimate goal is to create a community toolbox that NeighborWorks and other communities can easily use, full of tools aimed at connecting residents seeking to better their surroundings.

“Working on Bateman this year is such a great experience,” says Rossi. “We’re getting to apply ourselves to a real situation outside of class, and it’s not just a campaign plan on paper. We’re executing our ideas and we get to watch our campaign affect others’ lives in Orange County. It’s definitely challenging at times, but it’s really fun to watch it come to life.”


Many of the residents of the Woodcrest community, named after the local elementary school, live in low-income apartments surrounding the school. NeighborWorks Orange County and Habitat for Humanity partnered with residents in the community three years ago with a Neighborhood Revitalization and Community Building project. The neighborhood has since been making leaps and bounds toward becoming a stronger community.

Bateman Case Study Competition
, PRSSA’s premier national case study competition for public relations students, gives students an opportunity to apply classroom education and internship experiences to creating and implementing a full public relations campaign. The execution phase of the competition runs through February. Students are challenged to research, execute, and evaluate a full campaign plan in competition with students at colleges and universities across the country. This year, competition teams are partnering with Home Matters and NeighborWorks America to create campaigns that align with and enhance their mission.


“Last October, I knew virtually nothing about community building. I mean, we all know what the term means, but I never really thought critically about the process, and its importance, until now. To see what NeighborWorks Orange County does in communities like Woodcrest is really inspiring,” said Firchau, “and I know we’re all glad we get to be a part of this, and learn from it.”

NWOC is a local non-profit that works to strengthen communities and enhance the quality of life for working families by expanding housing opportunities, promoting sound financial management, and encouraging civic engagement.

The Bateman competition’s execution phase officially ends on February 28th. Follow and support the group’s activities on