By: Huy Tran
A Cal Poly Pomona marketing class helped gather basic necessities for local veterans while gaining hands-on experience in creating and managing marketing outreach plans to support a local organization’s cause.
As part of the Rocket Your Future service-learning course, students in Professor Lydia Chen Shah’s class established a partnership with local nonprofit Sowing Seeds for Life (SSFL), whose goal is to eliminate hunger in the Los Angeles and Inland Valley areas.
In the marketing class, the students organized a campus donation drive for essentials like travel-sized toiletries and black socks, a specific color Fran Robertson, SSFL director of development, said veterans prefer for its ability to mask dirt during long periods without regular access to laundry facilities. Materials collected from April 17 to May 4 were packaged and distributed onsite at SSFL’s food pantry in La Verne.
“Being involved in the community is not only about volunteering or giving money. There are so many other ways to be engaged, including using one’s marketing expertise,” Chen-Shah said.
In service-learning courses, students learn to engage with the surrounding community, apply the skills and concepts gained in their academic programs, and make meaningful contributions to society.
Divided into three teams, the class developed a marketing plan targeting friends, family and others members they closely interact with. One group’s strategy involved contacting hygiene banks and corporate donors. Another group designed a flyer targeting faculty, staff and students that lists donation requests and the campus drop-off location.
Not all of the learning has been academic.
“It has opened my eyes,” student Jacob Garza said. “Veterans need much more assistance than we could imagine. The idea of changing a veteran’s life for the better makes me feel as if I am doing a great deed to those that have risked their lives for me.”
Student Ernest Reta added, “I would definitely like to do this again, even after the quarter is over. It has been rewarding — doing something good in the world and to be part of something bigger than yourself.”
According to Robertson, Cal Poly Pomona and SSFL’s partnership is built on shared goals and mutual desire to build upon each other’s strengths. She said that she is impressed by the heart students have shown for community service. Both parties seemed pleased with the new relationship.
“Working with SSFL allows the students to have direct interaction with various stakeholders and constituents of the organization,” Chen Shah said. “Those contact points, firsthand experience, provide valuable insight and can change how a student views what it means to make an impact in any given community.”
SSFL provides food to more than 7,000 families a month in the Los Angeles and Inland Valley area. Its mobile food pantry also comes to Cal Poly Pomona once a month, serving more than 400 students.