ESU Students Create Public Service Announcements to Encourage Vaccination

3 students holding a banner that says CEC Support the Buddy Walk

Posted by: Elizabeth Richardson on May 27, 2021, No Comments

East Stroudsburg University’s Community Health Organization, a student club in the department of health studies, sponsored a contest to create a public service announcement (PSA) or a meme to encourage students to get vaccinated against COVID-19. They were joined in their efforts by the department of wellness education and prevention. Christina Brecht, instructor of health studies at ESU, is the faculty advisor for the Community Health Organization. “While the arrival of the vaccine has brought so much hope for a return to pre-pandemic life, it was also increasingly apparent from national polling that many, including college age individuals, are not willing to be vaccinated for a variety of reasons,” she said. “In public health we study the many factors that influence health behaviors. Individuals are more likely to attend to messages from people with whom they can identify. So ‘students talking to students’ was really the intent of the contest. Advice from government agencies or school officials were less likely to hit home with our students. When students see images of fellow students getting vaccinated it starts to shift social norms around vaccination,” she said. “We also acknowledged that videos and memes on social media are appealing to our students.”

Two video PSAs and one meme were chosen as the winners.

Alexandria Doty, a senior majoring in special and early childhood education from Rockaway, N.J., created a video PSA about the ESU Buddy Walk, an event hosted by The Council for Exceptional Children(CEC) that advocates for individuals with Down syndrome and includes a large parade. The event is typically held every October to celebrate Down Syndrome Awareness Month.

“As a leader of CEC I wanted to advocate for individuals with disabilities who cannot get the vaccine,” Doty said. “It is so important that those of us who can get the shot do so to help protect those who cannot. I chose to create the video about the Buddy Walk because it is one of my favorite events. It was heartbreaking last year when it was held as a drive by event, and we were unable to interact. We hope more people will get the vaccine so those who can’t will be protected and we can return to an in-person buddy walk this year.”

Samantha Kutza, a junior majoring in digital media technologies from Auburn, Pa., created a video about going to concerts again. “I entered this contest because I wanted to encourage my peers to trust science and get the vaccine. The sooner we all get our shots, the sooner our lives return to normal,” Kutza said. “I made a video about concerts because that was the one thing I missed the most during this pandemic. There is nothing like being surrounded by strangers that you share an emotional connection with through music. I can’t wait to be in that environment again.”

Kaitlyn Caleen, a senior majoring in public health from Upper Mt. Bethel, Pa., submitted the winning meme. The meme is a photo of her with the ESU Warrior mascot with the words “We want you to take the shot! Let’s get back to campus life before COVID-19” across the top. Callen, who is also a member of the Warriors softball team, said, “ I want to return to normal for myself, my teammates and all of our college students at ESU that have lost so much from the pandemic.”

The most important criteria was the potential impact of the video or meme on the decision to get vaccinated – but creativity, originality, and professionalism were considered as well, according to Brecht.

“We hope that willingness to get vaccinated will continue to increase so we can return to full auditoriums, packed bleachers at sporting events and graduations and the many other campus activities that we’ve missed.”

Each of the three winners received $150 gift cards.