By Cejay Moore
Lindsey Houchin, 26, welcomes in her newspaper class then points to the back of the room, “Kyle, what’s been the best part of your day?” Houchin says.
Kyle Rubin, senior, turns and says, “coming back to newsroom,” while the class erupts with clapping.
This is a normal day in a unique class at Bowling Green High School.
“You’ll notice quickly this isn’t a normal classroom,” Houchin said. “They come in, we debrief, and then they just do their own thing, everyone knows what they need to be working on for the project.”
Twenty-five students, one full-time teacher, and one WKU intern are what make up this class.
The class’ main focus this semester has shifted from strictly newspaper to adding public relations as another topic of conversation.
Chloe Holbein, WKU public relations major and intern at Bowling Green High School, has played a huge role in this as she helped to created a new public relations campaign with these students.
The class began brainstorming ideas when the idea of service hours was brought up. Many students have to complete them for school clubs or want to, but are not aware of the resources. After surveying the school, they found around half of their results showed no involvement in community service.
With determination to make a difference within their school, Holbein and the class created #PurplesWithPurpose.
Holbein said the students have compiled lists of service opportunities, connected with their family resource center, and begun utilizing social media, such as making weekly podcasts featuring different service opportunities.
“I’m just facilitating,” Holbein said while pointing to a group of students. “It’s completely their works.”
Students have been working on this project all year long with Holbein and will continue next year with a new intern, with plans to have whole athletic teams partake in service projects to set a precedence in their school.
The project draws its inspiration from a student that was at Bowling Green High School a decade earlier.
McKenzi Loid was a 2008 Bowling Green High School graduate, who worked on the Purple Gem newspaper, and a 2012 WKU graduate, where she majored in public relations.
Loid died in a car accident while working as a public relations manager for a construction company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Leslie McCoy, director of communications for Bowling Green Independent Schools, says following Loid’s death a source that wants to remain anonymous donated $10,000 to Bowling Green High School.
“They challenged us to come up with an idea that would’t be a one and done project,” McCoy said. “They wanted a lasting legacy for McKenzi.”
Loid already had a scholarship in her name offered at WKU, so the Bowling Green High School journalism program was approached.
“While communicating with WKU advisers and others, we came up with the idea of the public relations internship at Bowling Green High School,” McCoy said.
Several Bowling Green High School students helped with the interview process, including Peter Guthrie, senior and co-editor in chief of Bowling Green High School’s newspaper, the Purple Gem.
Guthrie said this campaign has changed his perspective on service.
“It’s made me more empathetic,” Guthrie said. “It’s definitely shaped what I want to do with my life.”
Guthrie explains this service as intentional, which very well shows the legacy of McKenzi Loid carrying on.
Leslie McCoy said Loid was involved in service before she died, so their campaign choice was very fitting.
“McKenzi was very involved in Bowling Green, but also in Pittsburgh,” McCoy said.
Her obituary states she helped with Military Share Program, Autism Speaks, Rebuilding Together, Toys for Tots, Homeless Vets, Food Bank of State College, Cancer Care Partnership of State College, and Focus North America, during her time in Pittsburgh.
Jack Eason, senior and other co-editor in chief at the Purple Gem, said this project is bigger than what we see now.
“Hopefully this project and internship will last many years,” Eason said. “It’s McKenzi’s legacy.”
Many students and the community have been affected by the project already, including Bowling Green High School sophomore, Hannah Burt.
“Any positive way we can affect our community is great,” Burt said. “I think we’ve just sparked a flame.”
Loid’s legacy will continue to live on as this internship is funded for 10 years, welcoming in its second intern, WKU junior Gillian James, just this past week.
James is excited to begin the internship and continue the service attitude McKenzi Loid set forth, while learning and teaching about public relations.
“I’m eager to begin the McKenzi Loid Memorial Internship in the fall,” James said. “I did not even know what public relations was in high school, so it’s exciting to be able to work with high school students and show them the importance of it in the real world.”
Loid’s mother, Robin Loid, did not return calls seeking comment, but she previously told the Bowling Green Daily News: “all we can do now is continue her legacy by supporting this program and helping others.”
“She would be very proud,” Robin Loid said.