Students in the Internet and Media Activism class provided Shake-A-Leg Miami with several ways to showcase the work it does to help children with disabilities enjoy the waters of Biscayne Bay.
When the coronavirus pandemic struck, Shake-A-Leg Miami – an organization that offers children with and without disabilities the opportunity to experience sailing and sports on the waters of Biscayne Bay – had to shut down.
But the closure created an opportunity for students at the University of Miami School of Communication. They created an online TV channel for the nonprofit group so young campers could enjoy the activities virtually – while still having a connection to Shake-A-Leg Miami and the outdoors.
Now, as Miami-Dade County begins to return to some sort of normalcy, students are once again helping the organization strengthen its communication and reach a wider audience.
This time, students in the School of Communication’s Internet and Media Activism class were divided into four groups to design content that will help the community learn more about the organization’s work, according to Michelle Seelig, associate professor. who teaches the class.
Before class, Seelig met Harry Horgan, president of Shake-A-Leg Miami. Horgan was interested in bringing families and veterans back to the water. Many of them were worried about resuming group activities.
âHe instructed the students to advocate for content that will help people learn more about the healing qualities of the marine environment, in a safe and social way,â Seelig said.
The task corresponded to the class mission, which was to examine the role of the internet and the media in shaping social reform in order to document several social issues, including poverty, human rights and social inequality.
The students approached their assignments with the goal of providing Shake-A-Leg Miami with a more modern social media presence, interactive promotional material, exciting visuals, and access to social media influencers who could help them reach a wider audience, some of the students explained.
Many on the team agreed that while Shake-A-Leg Miami has a social media presence, its website could be better organized and easier to use. A team of students created a prototype that transformed the group’s Instagram site, creating different categories that visitors can engage in and even provided a prominent button, which would make it easier for visitors to donate funds. .
Student Adolfo Oliveira and his team were invited to come up with ideas to generate greater recognition of the organization, as well as identify fundraising opportunities. His team came up with the idea of ââworking with local businesses, including local real estate agents and stores selling sportswear.
âWe think they should target a very diverse group of people because that way they are casting a wider net,â Oliveira said. Her team’s plan also included reaching out to social media influencers such as Kelly Slater, a surfer from Florida with over 2.7 million subscribers on social media platforms, and Gesias Cavalcante, a Brazilian martial arts expert. also popular in South Florida.
In order to let parents know that Shake-A-Leg Miami has created a safe summer camp for kids, one of the teams created a fun and colorful social media campaign called âMake New Friendsâ. He included short, eye-catching videos of former camp members talking about their experiences.
To promote Shake-A-Leg Miami, another team of students designed a contest – âShow them what you can do in Miamiâ – to get more people engaged. The competition, which would be promoted via social media, would require participants to upload a one-minute video and a statement on what they can do on the water. The hashtag #MyShakealegMoment would be attached to each post. The winners would win a sailing trip on Biscayne Bay with Shake-A-Leg Miami.
âWe want to show the world how amazing people with different abilities are and how they can participate in things that people maybe can’t believe they could,â said Corbin Graves, one of the three team members who worked on the competition.
Shake-A-Leg Miami also provides veterans services. Another team devoted their time to finding ways for the organization to attract more veterans. Among the suggestions they made were that the organization should reach out to the community with a stronger media campaign and improve its Veterans Day activities. The team also suggested that Shake-A-Leg Miami could benefit from working with social media influencers who are veterans.
Horgan was impressed with all of the projects offered and the suggestions from the student teams.
âThey were all great,â he said. âThere is something to be said about young people doing this kind of outreach. Their vision is more colorful and fun. “
Horgan is now trying to figure out how to integrate some of the projects into his organization’s social media platforms. He works with Seelig and others at the School of Communication and plans to hire summer interns who can start helping implement the social media campaigns.