Communication senior Lauren Grattan found herself immersed in Kalamazoo’s tight-knit community this summer, in the midst of children, games and pop-up block parties. Grattan’s internship with the Kalamazoo Experiential Learning Center allowed her to bring her public relations minor to the table and become an integral part of some of the biggest events in the city.
The Kalamazoo Experiential Learning Center strives to cultivate a more connected community and provides interns with the necessary skill set to find success in public relations and event planning. Their pop-up block parties are meant to create community engagement so that police and youth can interact in the hopes of developing new friendships and future conversations.
Building a Community
Grattan served as a consultant to non-profit organizations, working to facilitate these events throughout the community. She assisted in the hosting of five different block parties throughout the summer, for which all activities were donated. Local law enforcement even volunteered to help out with the games and serve food. Grattan coordinated with a liason from the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety to determine which neighborhoods could best benefit from the event, each of which were assigned a theme like carnival, talent show and back-to-school.
“My favorite part of the internship was seeing the joy the block parties brought to the children’s lives,” said Grattan. “Some children don’t have the same opportunities as others, and to help them build relationships within their community in a positive way was very humbling.”
While Grattan was helping Kalamazoo’s residents come together, she ended up making some connections of her own. Under her supervisor, Executive Director Deb Droppers, she was able to grow both as a person and a professional.
“My boss was high-spirited and so generous, which is what the learning center is all about,” said Grattan. “She put a lot of trust into the interns which allowed us to have a lot of hands-on experience and responsibility.”
Making an Impression
From the beginning, Grattan was tasked with communicating with online platforms to market upcoming events and sat in on client meetings. She contacted local vendors, volunteer programs and local businesses to coordinate the events.
“No day on the job was the same,” said Grattan. “I acted as the point of contact for each event I was assigned to. One day I would be conducting meetings or calling the city to request streets to be blocked for an event. The next day, I would be painting props for festival events.”
Grattan’s hard work and dedication led to her quickly becoming known as a problem-solver. When events did not go quite as planned, she would develop multiple backup options to account for factors like the weather or other last-minute circumstances.
“Event days always came with a challenge, but you have to roll with it,” said Grattan. “It is important to remain calm and be prepared. Looking back, the stress of event days was worth it because working effectively under stressful circumstances is vital in the public relations world.”
By Katie Dudlets and Brooke Segal