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The Old College Try



What do you want to be when you grow up?

It’s the quintessential question grown-ups ask young children to help prepare them for life. But now Leader Jessica Colburn and a group of her fellow public relations classmates from the University of Alabama are trying to show children that their health habits now can effect what they are able to become later.

Colburn is the coordinator of Alabama’s Bateman Case Study Competition Team, competing in the annual national competition run by the Public Relations Student Society of America. This year, teams of more than 100 universities across the country will work with their local United Way chapter to combat childhood obesity in their communities, going head-to-had to see which school can put together the most effective PR strategy.

The Alabama team is focusing its efforts on raising awareness about the importance of healthy habits between the hours of 3 and 5 p.m, the time when the school day has ended but most parents aren’t home from work yet.

“We thought, ‘Why don’t we target what kids do after school? Let the children know they have the power to decide.’” Colburn says. “We decided that we would target when kids would get to make choices themselves.”

The students kicked off their P.R. campaign on Wednesday with a big event in downtown Tuscaloosa, where the highlight was an obstacle course where the kids put their physical activity abilities to the test.
Participants and organizers pose during Wednesday's "It's Your Move" event in Alabama. Photo courtesy Drew Hoover.

Before they took on the course, the children were given a brief lesson on living a healthy lifestyle, including nutrition and exercise tips. They then were split up into two teams, competing against each other to finish the course first. Along the way, the children had to answer questions about the lesson they were just taught.

If they answered correctly, the children could move on. If they didn’t, they had to do jumping jacks and try again. “We want it to be fun, but also that they’re actually getting something out of it while they’re doing it,” Colburn explains.

After the obstacle course, the children were able to meet with folks from a variety of professions, including firefighters, police officers, local athletes and even members of a robotics team. 

The goal: Show the kids why it’s important to be healthy. After all, a firefighter has a lot of equipment to carry around, and needs to be strong to do it. A scientist needs to keep his or her brain sharp, and good nutrition is a part of that.

Colburn and her teammates will hold similar events in upcoming weeks, including with a Girl Scouts troop, at several elementary schools and at a local church.

As for the PRSSA competition itself, in March they will send in a comprehensive package about the campaign to the PRSSA. Out of the 100 or so schools taking part, three teams will be picked as finalists. A winner will be announced later in the year.