'White ribbon’ makes difference in middle-school students’ lives

12/16/2008 - By: Claudene Wharton

Donald Trump would have had a hard time uttering “You’re fired” to any of the students in an Advanced Marketing Management class at the University of Nevada, Reno that instructor Judy Strauss structured like Trump’s popular Apprentice television show. Strauss’ students raised $23,609.76 for a local charity and helped raise awareness about domestic violence during the fall semester by passing out 3,200 white ribbons. Most importantly, they helped students at Reno’s Traner Middle School talk about their experiences with domestic violence.

Strauss, associate professor of marketing in the University’s College of Business, had her advanced marketing students compete with each other in four challenges during the semester. She designs one of the challenges to give students knowledge and experience in personal selling.

Earlier this year, the Reno/Tahoe chapter of the American Marketing Association contacted Strauss for help with the local White Ribbon Campaign, an international effort raising awareness of domestic violence issues by encouraging people, particularly men, to wear white ribbons during a designated week to show that they condemn domestic violence. In conjunction with the campaign, the chapter also decided to hold a fund-raiser for a local charity, Crisis Call Center, which assists domestic violence victims.

Strauss, along with the University’s American Marketing Association Collegiate Chapter, decided to get involved. The students in the Collegiate Chapter volunteered to make 5,000 ribbons for the campaign. Strauss designed the selling challenge in her class this semester to allow students to earn points for convincing people to wear ribbons, make class presentations, and secure raffle prize donations for the fund-raiser.

“But, the students objected to the exercise being so competitive,” Strauss explained. “They decided that they also wanted to have an overall class goal as well, so they could feel like a team.”

The class decided to set a goal of 8,000 points, based on 200 points for each of the 40 students. When all the points were tallied, the class earned about 30,000 points.

“They blew me away,” Strauss said. “Besides the students learning about selling, my other goal was to let them experience giving back to the community – to see what it feels like to help out a cause like this. They certainly accomplished that and far exceeded my expectations.”

Strauss was particularly struck by the snowball effect that a presentation by one of her students, Katie Young, had on some Traner students. Young contacted Pam Calhoun, a math teacher at the middle school and one of her former instructors at Galena High School, to see if she could present to some of the Traner students.

“I said ‘sure,’ not really thinking much of it,” Calhoun said. After Young presented to a handful of students in the school’s after-school program, they enthusiastically spread the word.

“I had to go out and buy spools of white ribbon because so many students were asking for one,” she said. “It really got them talking about domestic violence. Pretty soon, some girls were coming in to talk with me during their lunch hour about what was going on in their homes,” Calhoun said. The students started sharing their experiences with each other as well.

“I would have never guessed what was going on with a lot of these kids,” Calhoun said. “This is the kind of outreach that really has an impact. It opened up the door so that we can create a supportive environment for these kids.”

In addition to some of the students getting individual counseling, Traner is also planning a support group to help students deal with domestic violence issues. Calhoun noted that some University students majoring in education also work and volunteer at the school’s after-school program, as part of an internship program.

“They make a tremendous difference. Our students really respond to the University students,” she said. “And, I would have never thought a little white ribbon would have made such a big difference in these students’ lives.”


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