For the second year in a row, two of the five national finalists in the prestigious PRWeek Student of the Year competition came from SUNY Oswego. Nora Abdelnabi '09 and Corey Lemon '08 both earned finalist positions from more than 900 entries in the 2008 competition.
The annual competition provides college students the opportunity to win $5,000 and a paid internship with public relations firm Hill and Knowlton. This year's students followed in the footsteps of Oswego's two finalists last year, Melissa Andrews '07 and Leila Boukassi '07.
Two other finalists this year came from Penn State, with the other hailing from the University of North Carolina.
"I am so proud of Nora and Corey for continuing the tradition this year of Oswego State public relations students placing in the top five national finalists of the competition," said Professor Tina Pieraccini of Oswego's communication studies department. "They both worked very hard on their campaigns and excelled in this stiff competitive arena."
Pieraccini teaches "Advanced Public Relations" where students create a campaign for the PRWeek competition, and she submits all entries. This year, the client was Youth Venture, a Virginia-based organization encouraging youth to get involved in community service.
The finals, which took place in New York City in January, started with a half-hour presentation to a panel of judges. Then contestants had to pitch their campaign on the phone to Matt Boyle from Fortune magazine. The day concluded with a crisis-scenario exercise.
The two students approached the campaign with different awareness strategies.
"I created an online word-based trivia game, where kids and parents are able to donate food to the hungry by playing the game," Lemon said. "The game is the draw; the call to action is the possibility of earning credit through Youth Venture."
Abdelnabi decided that a celebrity endorser would be a way to draw youth, and she chose musical artist Kanye West.
"We would be touching young people on a personal level by going into the classroom and creating dialogue on youth-related issues with high and middle school students," she said. "Each school would get a large poster called a Vent Your Visions wall. Kids could express their perspectives on issues that they are passionate about."
She envisioned those completed posters serving as the backdrop of a future West concert.
While neither student claimed the grand prize, the two seniors feel they learned much about public relations, as well as about themselves.
"I learned to stick with my gut. My intuition was important to me. I doubted myself a little bit but I overcame that and I stuck with everything I wanted to do," Abdelnabi said. "It proved to me that regardless of what I do, when I put my heart into it, I always see a good outcome."
The experience also reaffirmed Lemon's belief that the public relations field is where he wants to be.
"This is what I do. It’s always what I've wanted to do. Communicating with people, and doing that in terms of making it happen, being there, selling the idea, it just fits," he said. "We got to do public relations in a legitimate PR environment, with a little bit of fun on the side."
— Christopher Hill '08
SUNY Oswego students Corey Lemon '08 and Nora Abdelnabi '09 were two of the five finalists from more than 900 entries for the prestigious PRWeek Student of the Year competition. It was the second year in a row Oswego has placed two students in the finals. The other finalists this year came from Penn State and the University of North Carolina.
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