Hundreds of Georgia College students – including a couple dozen communication majors – helped make Milledgeville’s recent “Night to Shine” prom for the developmentally disabled an event to remember.
Some acted as “buddies” – serving as dates, doing professional-style makeup and hair, serving refreshments and acting as escorts or paparazzi as guests descended from limousines and walked the red carpet. The night of glitz and glamour was held at Northridge Christian Church.
"They all had smiles on their faces, and it was just really nice to see a night dedicated to them." – Senior Julianna Cline
Nearly half of the prom’s volunteers were Georgia College students from all majors. Many have more fun at “Night to Shine” than they did at their own proms, said Dr. Nicole DeClouette, associate professor of teacher education and advisor for “Best Buddies,” an organization on campus that works with adults with disabilities.
Other students participate in the prom through Georgia College’s GIVE Center and Council for Exceptional Children, which is comprised of special education majors.
The university’s communication department provides the labor for promotional activities like photography and video. Students from Dr. Kristin English’s Strategic Campaigns capstone class made organizational timelines, took photos, posted on social media and coordinated volunteers into teams.
Professors estimate students provided about $4500 worth of promotional work. In return, students learned to work with real clients at a large function and meet deadlines. They performed a quick turnaround – editing a two-minute video recap and offloading photos to the Tim Tebow Foundation, sponsor of the worldwide event.
"No matter how many case studies or simulations we do in the classroom, we cannot emulate these types of events. It takes a fast learning curve and leadership. Students really have to focus on their tasks and think on their feet the night of the event." – Dr. Kristin English
Senior mass communication majors Lauren Nielly of Atlanta and Kristen Pack of Cumming worked in the media room, posting information and photos to social media. About a thousand photos were taken but only about 20 selected to represent the evening.
At one point, Pack left the media room to view the party.
“It just made me so much more passionate about what I was doing behind the scenes. Even to walk around those 10 minutes and see how happy everyone was – I could not keep from smiling too. It made us feel so good about what we were doing.” – Senior Kristen Pack
Senior mass communication major Jensen Sullivan of Woodstock wants to get a job in strategic communication. It was a real learning experience – seeing the amount of work needed to plan a large event. It brightens her life to be around adults with disabilities and see her date – a 58-year-old woman – shine “a thousand-percent joy.”
“We were able to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. It was an incredible night.” – Senior Jensen Sullivan