WOU students learn to serve the community via birthday party, dance


WOU students learn to serve the community via birthday party, dance

9:32 p.m. PDT May 17, 2016

Goodie bags, $5. Mother’s gift bags, $6. A party to celebrate your birthday? Priceless.

On Sunday, a communications and event-planning class at Western Oregon University threw a birthday party for two people staying at Simonka Place in Keizer.

The students partnered with the nonprofit Simply Birthdays at the start of the year with the mission of providing birthday parties for children in local homeless shelters.

Western Oregon University professor Molly Mayhead created the class, which is offered every two years to a select group of students.

Her goal is to teach event planning by getting the students involved in the community.

Mayhead said this style of learning benefits the students by providing them with real-world experience, while also helping local nonprofits and the people they serve.

Simply Birthdays was one of two partners the students worked with this semester, the other being YMCA Nite Court in Independence.

The event planning class is organizing a night of dancing in June called Summer Nite Club, at which there will be a raffle for donated prizes, including an iPod shuffle and gift cards.

Western students raised money to purchase all materials for both events, which totaled $1,500 for Simply Birthdays and more than $700 for Nite Court, including hundreds in sponsorship from businesses.

With the money raised for Simply Birthdays, the students bought cake, ice cream, gifts, goody bags, and games and activities.

The party Sunday celebrated two birthdays, one of a 4-year-old boy, and the other of an 18-year-old girl.

The shelter gave the students a list of the kids’ favorites and birthday wish list items.

For the young woman, they got her makeup, body spray, makeup remover wipes and more. The boy wanted things to do with Spiderman, so he got an action figure, a super hero blanket and coloring book, and more.

Both also received educational materials.

The mothers also got gift bags, with a nail kit, body spray, body wash, lotion and shampoo among the gifts.

“It was a huge success and made a lasting impact on everyone who attended,” said Western student Riley Anheluk, 22.

In the past, the class has worked with various partners, some years raising more than $13,000.

While planning, the class learned to dream big but also realistically. Students had to logistically plan each idea, including creating a budget, managing public relations, buying materials and checking in with each committee.

“This truly is a one-of-a-kind class on this campus,” Mayhead said.

After the events, students meet with the partners, write a reflection paper and create individual portfolios of their work.

“I never realized this class would require all I’ve learned in college and high school,” said student Alma Pacheco, 21.

She helped by speaking in Spanish for a commercial they did.

For David Ribich, 20, the class initially was just a way for him to get a communications credit. But it turned into far more.

“This class put everything we’ve learned in other classes into perspective and action,” he said. “We know we can use these skills in the real world because we are already dealing with the real world.”

Natalie Pate is the education reporter for the Statesman Journal. Contact Natalie at npate@StatesmanJournal.com, 503-399-6745, or follow her on Twitter @Nataliempate, on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/nataliepatejournalist or on the Web at nataliepate.com

Nite Court

The class’s Summer Nite Club event will be from 7 to 10:30 p.m. June 3  at the Independence Elks Lodge, 289 S. Main St.

It is for middle and high school students in Polk County school districts.

Pre-sale tickets can be bought for $5 at the YMCA of Independence. Door tickets are $8. 

More information

To donate to Simply Birthdays, go to gofundme.com/simplybirthdays.

Published by Natalie Pate

Natalie Pate is a freelance journalist and author based in Salem, Oregon. She wrote about education for more than seven years at the Statesman Journal and now covers education and other topics throughout the Pacific Northwest. She is originally from Colorado and earned her B.A. in Politics and French from Willamette University.

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