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Communications students support new Burlington preschool 

Lecturer Hal Vincent's Winter Term course conducted research and prepared communications strategies for the fledgling Holy Comforter Community Playschool, an inclusive bilingual school set to open in fall 2015.

As part of their Winter Term ‘Strategic Research Methods’ course, School of Communications students visited Centro La Comunidad, an Alamance County organization that helps break down language and culture barriers in the surrounding communities. Photos courtesy of Hal Vincent

​As the Rev. Adam Shoemaker and officials of Holy Comforter Episcopal Church continue preparations for the opening of their new bilingual playschool this fall, the group engaged Elon students in the Winter Term “Strategic Research Methods” course to create communications strategies for their facility’s arrival.

Led by School of Communications lecturer Hal Vincent, the strategic communications research class compiled a list of effective ways to market the Holy Comforter Community Playschool, particularly to Alamance County and its surrounding area’s Latino community.

To formulate their communications plans, the students invited Shoemaker and retired educator John Swajkoski, chair of the church’s playschool committee, to campus for a debriefing. In the following days, the students conducted extensive secondary research, met on site with Holy Comforter’s playschool stakeholders, and conducted interviews with Centro La Comunidad staff and surrounding community members. Additionally, the class attended an Elon Poverty Simulation session, an interactive experience organized by the university to educate community members about the realities of poverty.

“Elon University is just a great resource for a project like this,” Shoemaker said. “Hal Vincent’s class spent a good amount of time with us at Holy Comforter talking to our playschool committee, interviewing us about our hopes and our vision, and discussing where we are looking to go with this project.”

At the conclusion of the course, Shoemaker returned to class for a formal presentation where students unveiled their research and findings, which included social media communications plans, proposed marketing content, and potential logos.

During the class’ visit to Holy Comforter Episcopal Church, the Rev. Adam Shoemaker (center) spoke with Elon students and fellow Holy Comforter members about the church’s new playschool.

​“They presented us with a surprisingly thorough report and recommendation in just a short period of time,” Shoemaker said. “I think that has all been helpful to us as we start to unveil the school to the community.”

In the weeks since, Holy Comforter Community Playschool has launched a Facebook page, one of the main recommendations brought forward by the Elon students. A website is also being considered to increase the playschool’s online visibility.

“It is a wonderful, cost-effective way to get the word out,” Shoemaker said of social media. “We are also working to incorporate some of the class’ other insights and recommendations on how to reach out to Latino and Anglo audiences, as well as how we try to recruit young children and families to get involved in the school.”

Shoemaker and his fellow church members see a dire need for an inclusive bilingual Burlington preschool that is built on the spirit of caring and the belief that kids learn best through play.

“We hope to provide children from both Spanish- and English-speaking homes a similar experience, while they learn from one another and are exposed to two different languages,” he said. “There is a need in this county to build bridges. Holy Comforter is situated between East and West Burlington, and we feel we are called to be a bridge between the white and non-white communities.”

Shoemaker commended Elon University’s campus community for its interest in making the playschool a success. In addition to the communications class, Holy Comforter has partnered with Elon education students for curriculum and classroom design. Deborah Long, interim dean of the School of Education, and Heidi Hollingsworth, assistant professor of education, have also provided their professional insight. Likewise, Sylvia Munoz, associate director of The Center for Race, Ethnicity and Diversity, has assisted with Holy Comforter’s search for a school director.

“I would say the university as a whole has been a tremendous resource for us as we get this effort off the ground,” Shoemaker said. 

Tommy Kopetskie,
3/24/2015 9:25 AM