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Saturday, Nov 01, 2014

Overcast, 43 °F

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Project C meeting

OHIO students cram into the cramped living room of 7 Stewart St. to learn about Project C.

Photographer: Andrew Thomas

ProjectC_GatheringPlace_255

The Gathering Place, pictured here, is one of four different nonprofit Athens groups that will benefit from Project C's 2012 initiatives.

Photographer: Andrew Thomas

HAPCAP

HAPCAP’s Learn & Work participants develop employment skills while helping the Village of Glouster clean up houses. HAPCAP is among four nonprofits that will receive funds through Project C this year.

Photo courtesy of: HAPCAP

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Triple C: Student-led project initiates change between students, Athens community

Student group works through multimedia website Project C for community awareness


An array of students at Ohio University brave the chilly air, persisting despite the approaching spring break, to cram into the cramped living room of 7 Stewart St.

The excitement quickly warms the cold house – the quintessence of college-student living – as attendees ready to hear what lies on Project C's horizon.

Project C, which signifies their motto, "Clicking Creates Change," is a multimedia-based storytelling website that aims to inform, inspire and call Ohio University students and Athens residents to increase involvement in the community through local organizations.

Each year, the website promotes four different nonprofit Athens groups. This year's venture, going live Monday, will highlight United Campus Ministry, Rural Action: Watershed Restoration, The Gathering Place and Hocking Athens Perry Community Action.

To participate in the project, click here.

As the preliminary meeting gets underway, co-founders Tony Guglielmi and Annette Drapac, both senior interactive media majors, stand to introduce their brainchild to the new members and reacclimate those who participated in the project's inception last year.

"We come from a kind of background in our school where it's pretty normal to tell stories, but when it comes down to the projects from students, you don't see any action taken outside of that story," Guglielmi said. "We want to use our talents in order to give back."

What sets Project C apart from other storytelling or awareness campaigns is their fundraising.  

"It's really about that action step," Guglielmi said.

In the months leading up to the website launch, members secured funds to store in the Project C piggybank. In its inaugural year last year, members relied heavily on donations from family and friends, eventually raising $1,075. In its second year, with increased legitimacy, Project C introduced an online donation website through IndieGoGo in hopes of doubling their fund. At the time of publication, the group had raised $2,245.

An integral part of the Project C website experience is the voting, which is united with the project's philanthropy. Beginning with Monday's launch, website visitors with an email address can vote for their favorite featured nonprofit twice a day each of the five days the website is live.

Although individuals with an already established personal connection to an organization are a large proportion of the votes, many visitors learn about the nonprofits and their works for the first time by way of Project C's multimedia edification.

After the week-long voting period, the money raised will be divided and donated to each organization according to the percentage of votes received, making it so there is no "losing" organization.

"Everyone walks away with some benefit," Eric Schafer, senior sport management major and director of marketing for Project C, said.

"The money itself is not what's important," Guglielmi said. "We're not going to raise enough money to change the course of these organizations. It's really about educating the community about what they're doing."

Drapac conceived the concept last December after inspiration from initiatives such as Pepsi Refresh and Google Chrome for a Cause – well-known corporations showcasing and donating to nonprofits. As the City of Athens and Southeast Ohio continue to support and sustain Ohio University students year after year, Drapac believed it was time to reciprocate, and she wanted to do so before her own four years concluded.

After presenting her vision to Guglielmi and former co-director Kyle Ackley, Drapac's dream became a reality.

Through their raconteur, video production and web development skills, the nearly 25 Project C members now collaborate to bring the stories of Athens nonprofit organizations, such as Athens County Habitat for Humanity and Goodworks, to community members and Ohio University students through an interactive website. The project works on an annual basis, with different nonprofit organizations being introduced each new year.

Project C's membership has held steady in its two years, with the current year representing about four Ohio University colleges. The team draws talents from students of E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, School of Visual Communication, School of Media Arts & Studies and College of Business.

"The majority of students are sheltered within the University, but we have such a rich culture in Athens," Drapac said. "We felt it was important to reach out and bridge the gap in a creative way."

To strengthen Project C's mission of creating deeper connections between the student and residential populations in Athens, the group strives for complete transparency and open involvement online during the process through the keeping of a blog.  

Project C begins each year with an online nomination process in which visitors suggest Athens County nonprofits for Project C members' consideration. The four nonprofit organizations with the majority of nominations are selected for the year's contest. For the 2012 project, the group received 1,185 individual nominations. All recommendations remain on the nomination page for use in coming years' selections, and as an ongoing database individuals can utilize to find volunteer opportunities.

"We don't want to tell the community what's important, what stories should be told," Guglielmi said. "We want the community's input about what organizations they want to hear about or are really affecting the community right now."

After the four nonprofits have been identified, student volunteer videographers, or "shooters," spend time getting to better understand the organizations and supporters, gaining their trust, while filming and taking photographs.

Their work is used to create compelling content for the educational aspect of the website.

Andrew Thomas, senior video production major and Project C shooter and editor, said it is often hard for students to develop relationships with organization representatives who may have never heard of Project C.

"To capture emotion, I want to capture them in action, doing things, because I think that's what's visually compelling, when we see people connecting," Thomas said. "We want to film everything we can … some people don't want to be shot and are closed off; it's difficult to get people on camera."

Thomas added that as Project C gains heed, organizations will better understand the benefit of the movement, and, as a result, be more willing to be open with the project's student volunteers. That truth has already been evidenced in the current year's behind-the-scenes experiences, he said.

Project C members hope to further the established student-community relationships after the voting closes June 1, and use them to encourage continued partnerships. Drapac and Guglielmi, along with other members, felt that was a step they were missing during the first year.

As a remedy, Project C will finish the week with a community event Friday at the Athens Community Center pavilion. The featured nonprofit organizations will join together with Project C members and attendees to showcase the projects and mingle over food, music and Photo Booth pictures for guests' enjoyment.

The event will also further Project C's community service commitment through a silent auction, according to Callie Sauter, Ohio University resident director and Project C lead event planner.

"The biggest thing we're trying to do is get people out from behind their computer," Guglielmi said.