It’s 8 a.m. on a Tuesday morning as Western Carolina University first-year honors students fill Room 214 in the Forsyth Building.
Looking around the room, there is a group with laptops open, editing a newly launched website. Several students are scrolling through social media to increase their client’s Facebook following, and a few are heading out the door with cameras and Santa Claus costumes. This is not a typical class that just listens to lectures, takes notes and completes quizzes, but one that involves experiential learning in which students are diving straight in and enhancing the marketing, writing and social media skills they already have to benefit a real client.
Their client is the Christmas Connection of Jackson County, a nonprofit that provides Christmas gifts for children of low-income families. The Christmas Connection, which is completely volunteer-run, has been serving the community for more than 27 years. This grassroots organization works with individuals, families, schools and social services professionals across Jackson County to purchase gifts for more than 1,000 children each year. As this is an immense task, the Christmas Connection is constantly seeking support with various aspects, including generating public awareness, raising donations and purchasing and sorting toys.