Community-based learning course addresses book deserts in Charlotte

Members of The Sport Experience cohort organized a Dec. 3 book drive in collaboration with the Charlotte Knights to support Promising Pages, a Charlotte-based nonprofit organization that distributes books to underserved children.

Four students sit at a table soliciting book donations.
During the Dec. 3 Light the Knights event at Truist Field, Lena Gunn ’25 (from left), Justin Holt ’24, Sarah Dawkins ’25 and Anthony Bamford ’25 oversaw a table collecting books and monetary donations for Promising Pages.

As part of the inaugural The Sport Experience cohort, a sport management immersive semester offered at Elon’s new Charlotte campus, 12 School of Communications students engaged in community-based learning activities while studying and living in the Queen City.

During the cohort’s Event and Venue Management course, taught by Cara Lucia, associate professor and chair of the Sport Management Department, students learned the ins and outs of event management while gaining a better understanding of corporate social responsibility and the role sport organizations play in addressing access to public goods.

A group of people stand together for a posed photo at an office in Truist Field.
The Sport Experience cohort gathers for a group photo during the idea pitch for the Promising Pages book drive with the Charlotte Knights.

The cohort partnered with the Charlotte Knights and Promising Pages to help facilitate a Dec. 3 book drive in conjunction with the Light the Knights Festival. All proceeds benefited Promising Pages, a nonprofit dedicated to collecting new and donated books to distribute to students and community organizations. Its objective is to eliminate book deserts and provide a free resource to those who need it most.

Initially, the students’ event planning process started with generating ideas about potential community partners in Charlotte, which led to an in-person presentation at Truist Field with the Knights staff. During the meeting, the students pitched the idea of a book drive. Alumna Grace Eng Harper ’15, vice president of special events for the Charlotte Knights, served as the cohort’s point of contact throughout the process.

“Learning how to clearly communicate between the Charlotte Knights and Promising Pages was vital,” said Anthony Bamford ’25, a media analytics major who studied in Charlotte. “Whether it was emailing the Knights or Promising Pages, brainstorming, drafting, or creating content, everyone played a significant role in bringing it all together.”

As part of the book drive, all 12 students – with support from Lucia – played a role in coordinating the event, from logistics to marketing to social media promotion. The drive served as a culminating semester-long project for the students where they learned how to plan, coordinate, communicate, and promote a large-scale event. The students were intentional in their selection of Promising Pages because of the nonprofit’s focus on education.

A group of four people stand together, with one holding a Promising Pages poster.
A group of students pose for a photograph with Eric Law (second from left), executive director for Promising Pages.

During the Dec. 3 drive, which ran from noon to 8 p.m., students accepted book and monetary donations for Promising Pages. In lieu of books, the students also accepted donations via cash or a GoFundMe account connected to the nonprofit. For each donation, donors received a cookie along with mini candy canes. The students compiled 117 donated books and $900 in monetary donations during the charity drive. Additionally, the book drive project received a Community Partner Initiative grant from the Kernodle Center at Elon University, which provided students an opportunity to learn how to budget and allocate funds to host their philanthropic effort.

Lucia commended her students for their hard work during the program’s inaugural fall semester, noting the many benefits of studying in Mecklenburg County.

“The book drive proved to be a resounding success for students, showcasing the power of collaboration and community engagement,” Lucia said. “The students not only had the chance to collaborate with their peers, but also benefited from the wisdom and experience of alumni. Beyond the confines of the classroom, the students actively embraced the vibrant spirit of the Charlotte community.”

Lucia explained that the project’s multifaceted learning experience emphasized the importance of hands-on engagement, fostering connections that extend far beyond the event itself.

“As the students reflect on this enriching experience, they carry with them not just newfound knowledge but a sense of unity and shared accomplishment,” she said.

The cohort’s work and volunteer experience in the Charlotte community wasn’t limited to the book drive. The students also completed service hours with the ACC Tournament, a partnered event with the Boys & Girls Club and the Charlotte Knights, as well as with sport youth programs for the YMCA of Greater Charlotte.

Bamford highly recommends the Event and Venue Management course, noting the valuable lessons he learned because of its service hours requirement. “This class allowed me to get out and interact with the Charlotte community in a way that was separate from my professional and academic experiences in the city,” he said.