Collegiate School Seniors Kick Off Campaigns For Area Nonprofits

Now entering its third year, CreateAthon, a senior Capstone class, presents Collegiate School students with a challenge on behalf of five local nonprofits whose success depends not only on creative and strategic thinking, but also on teamwork and project management.
Fifteen students, divided into five teams, are working with this year’s organizations and CreateAthon partners — Neighborhood Resource Center of Greater Fulton (NRC), BLOOM Charity, Virginia Farmers Market Association, Love of Learning, World U.P. Foundation — on developing real-world solutions for marketing campaigns.
The CreateAthon Capstone, taught by Upper School art teacher, Jere Williams, connects students with mentors, who are also alums and parents, from the advertising world, who provide valuable insight and guidance for each team as they learn how to take creative concepts and transform them into deliverables on deadline. Today, the mentoring process began, with meetings taking place all morning in the Sharp Academic Commons.
Collegiate is unique, participating as the only CreateAthon partner at the high school level. CreateAthon was developed as a 24-hour event where creative professionals and college students offer pro bono marketing campaign services for nonprofits. While a typical CreateAthon event is 24 hours, in the case of Collegiate, it is offered over the course of the semester as a senior Capstone.
This year, depending on the individual nonprofit, students will work on branding, tag lines, logos and even social media videos in support of brand awareness and donor campaigns.
While some of the students have taken Mr. Williams’ Digital Media class, not all students have previous graphic design experience. To begin the process, the organizations come to campus for a face-to-face interview to find out what each organization is looking for.
According to Mr. Williams, ultimately the success of the CreateAthon Capstone depends on two things: that the students have a positive learning experience and the nonprofit benefits. Seniors Caroline Curtis and Sam Kachel, both of whom are interested in pursuing business and communications/ marketing in college, are working on social media videos for NRC, and are excited for the challenge.
“The NRC demands a lot from us,” said Caroline, who was drawn to the class for the real-world experience, “we are definitely learning a lot.”
A particularly memorable experience involved The Garden Schoolhouse, formerly the Chesterfield Innovative Academy for Girls (CIA). In 2016, the CIA came to CreateAthon for help with their emblem. During the presentation, students suggested a name change to the Garden Schoolhouse. The following year, the organization returned for a rebranding campaign and officially adopted the new name.
“They put their identity in our hands,” Mr. Williams said. “The kids experienced a valuable life experience to see how passionate people in the world can be about what they do.”
The students will present their ideas to the five participating nonprofit organizations in early December.

– By Aynsley Miller Fisher '93
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