Making it Real- University of Florida Connects with Peace4Tarpon

By Robin Saenger

And this is as real as it gets! The University of Florida School of Public Health in Gainesville had the opportunity to have real-life experience last semester when Peace4Tarpon was invited to be the subject of the Fall 2016 Semester Master’s Public Health Communications class.

Under the leadership of Professor Mark Hart, the class was able have the experience of how to “message” an emerging model and to create useful products contributing to real work in the world.

Dr. Hart reflected that this “living laboratory” had much greater potential to provide more meaningful experiences for the students than what is sometimes typically the subject of such a class — creating messaging for smoking cessation for example.

In contrast, these students were working on the “real deal” — creating usable information formats for our unique and vibrant community initiative.

Dr. Hart’s students, a group of 20 women, were tasked with providing three finished products for Peace4Tarpon, including one piece of social media messaging, one infographic or poster, and one public service announcement (PSA).

A series of meetings took place beginning with a group of the students traveling to Tarpon Springs to meet with the Peace4Tarpon board of directors and our MARC grant program manager Wendy Sedlacek. (MARC is the Mobilizing Action for Resilient Communities project in which we participate, along with 13 other communities.)

Peace4Tarpon representatives made four trips to Gainesville to share info and interact with the students during the semester.

Sedlacek and I made that initial trip to provide an overview of Peace4Tarpon and how we are working to share our message with the broader community.
The second trip was to present a training on ACEs science and trauma by our P4T trainer and partner Melissa Andress. Melissa is a Tarpon resident who works for SEDNET within Pinellas County Schools. SEDNET is the multi-agency network for students with emotional/behavioral disabilities throughout Florida.
Carl vom Eigen, Mary Sharrow, Sedlacek and I all journeyed to Gainesville for the third trip to see the “draft” stages of the students’ work and provide feedback and input. By then, the students had divided into five groups led by Lindsey King, Caroline Valencia, Kailyn Pearce, Cara McDonnell, and Kelli Sellwyn.

And our fourth and final trip was to see the end products the students had created, which are now available for Peace4Tarpon to use as we wish. We’ve already posted one of the short videos on our Facebook page to very positive reviews.

We were awed and amazed by both the depth of understanding evident in the work and also the brilliance and creativity of the class. They thought of things we hadn’t even considered. They breathed fresh life into what we are immersed in at such depth that we hadn’t seen some of the most obvious possibilities for our messaging. For example using a sponge in the PSA. Tarpon Springs is known as The Sponge Capital of the World with a robust sponge industry. The students found a deeper meaning by using it to related to trauma and resilience.

Beyond the scope of having some great marketing and communication materials is the reassuring knowledge that these young women are going into the public-health realm “woke” as the saying goes. They are a powerful group of advocates, enlightened and aware of the impact of trauma, ACEs and resilience as they journey into their professional careers.

Personally, I find that is the most thrilling aspect of this collaborative experience.

We loved this journey and learning from each other. But the journey is not over — one of the students, Kailyn Pearce, is now an intern with Peace4Tarpon and she will be bringing a fresh perspective to our community resource guide and marketing committee. We are delighted to work with her this semester!

One interesting follow-up was a questionnaire for the students proposed by our Peace4Tarpon champion, Mary Sharrow.

In her words: “It would seem as if we would be missing some wonderful insights from a very select group of future health leaders if we did not capture some of their thoughts before they move on with their lives..”

She developed some questions so we could collect data about the students’ knowledge of ACEs and resilience before and after the class. But perhaps more importantly, ask them what they learned through the process and how it might influence their future lives, both personally and professionally. We look forward to the possibility of future collaborations between Peace4Tarpon, University of Florida, Dr. Hart and his students.