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PRLab’s annual work-a-thon for nonprofits goes virtual

Despite in-person limitations this holiday season, Boston University public relations students are keeping up the tradition of giving by volunteering for nonprofits, but not without changes.

PRLab’s annual PRoBono event will be held virtually beginning Friday night, giving students the opportunity to create public relations materials for nonprofit organizations. ILLUSTRATION BY HANNAH YOSHINAGA/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

The College of Communication’s PRLab will kick off its eighth annual PRoBono marathon Friday night, during which students will design free content for nonprofit organizations over the course of two days.

The goal of PRoBono is to give students the opportunity to collaborate, make new connections, promote their assigned organizations and participate in games throughout the night — this year in a completely virtual format.

PRLab Vice President Rebecca Owen, a senior in COM, will be participating in PRoBono for the second time this year, though this is her first year in a supervising role.

“We’re really excited about being able to help out our communities, but also connect over Zoom,” Owen said. “It’s going to be a little different, but we’re really excited to help out these much-deserving nonprofits.”

Last year, Owen worked with Universal Human Rights International, a Boston nonprofit that helps war refugees acclimate to life in the United States. During the event, Owen’s team created social media accounts, updated its website, wrote op-eds and produced social media posts for UHRI.

Organizations that have participated in past years include the Cancer Education Research Institute, the Fenway Community Center and other Boston-based organizations. However, because the event this year is fully remote, PRLab has been able to expand its reach to nonprofits outside of Boston.

“We’ve been able to move at a wider [pace],” Owen said, “which is so nice.”

COM senior Emma Silva, account supervisor at PRLab, volunteered at PRoBono last year with the Cancer Education and Research Institute. She said she is excited to be back to assist other nonprofits.

“They’re all nonprofit, so they don’t usually have a ton of budget, especially being on the smaller side, so basically they don’t even assume that communication services or PR is within reach for them,” Silva said. “PRoBono is what gives them an opportunity to get those services.”

This year, instead of working straight through the night, students will work in two parts: Friday from 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. and Saturday 6 a.m. to 12 p.m., with a break in between.

Though games and activities won’t be the same as previous years, Owen said PRLab is finding ways to curb Zoom fatigue with special guests and engaging activities, such as an online scavenger hunt, Kahoot! and Quiplash games.

Preserving this social aspect does not go unappreciated — COM senior Kateryna Kzhemanovska said she is excited to join PRoBono this year, especially for these connections.

“This year, it’s a unique opportunity for PR students to unite and learn about each other and help for the greater good.” Kzhemanovska said. “Especially now that we, all of us, lack some contact, I feel like it’s a great opportunity to connect with my classmates.”

The marathon is not exclusive to PR and other COM students. Silva said any BU student is welcome to register.

“It’s been a hard year for a lot of people, including a lot of organizations and nonprofits,” Silva said, “so if there’s anything we can do with this event to make a difference and give back to them and help them spread their message and get that out, then it’ll all be worth it.”

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