Public service class at North starts campaign to support local businesses

The Public Service Practicum (PSP) class started a campaign to help support local businesses during the holiday season. Local businesses have been struggling with stay-at-home orders and have been getting less business than usual.

“Right now we’re doing a local campaign. So what we’re doing is we’re raising awareness of what the companies are doing and what they’re selling, and we’re trying to get more people out to buy their products this season. And then we’re also reaching out to the companies themselves and asking what they need, how can we help so that we can make a bigger impact,” said junior Emily Larrivee.

Students wanted to help their community and found that supporting small businesses could make a big difference.

“What we aim to accomplish is drawing in customers for our local businesses. Every new purchase made by a customer helps pay for employees’ shifts, supplies and necessary equipment,” said senior Kelechi Akalaonu.

The students attempted a social media campaign to raise awareness and bring support to local restaurants.

“We championed social media as the best way to spread the word. Likes, retweets and shares are our best way to get our information out as fast and as far as possible,” Akalaonu said.

The goal of the project was to make a lasting impact, outside of the holiday season, and encourage people to continually remember to support small businesses. 

“The idea is also largely that regardless of whether or not we support a specific local business is to get people thinking about local businesses that they could support,” said PSP teacher Tim Sermak. 

This is Sermak’s first year taking over the PSP course. He had the class vote on what project they were interested in doing, in hopes of having the students be more invested. 

“My focus has been allowing students in on what projects they want to do. I think you get more out of it,  and I think the projects are more authentic, and hopefully more meaningful and effective. As a matter of fact, a part of the class is actually doing a small food drive,” Sermak said. 

One group of students argued strongly for supporting small businesses and helped influence several students in the class. The class got to vote between several project ideas, and by more than a two to one margin, the most popular project that students wanted to work on was a small business campaign. Larrivee was one of the students who originally argued for supporting small businesses.

“I chose this project because I’ve seen the impact local businesses have on our community,” Larrivee said. “I feel if we were able to help these people, we’ll be able to have a broader impact than if we just reached out to one cause because I feel like all the local businesses as a whole work to build up many different areas of our community.”

The subgroup that voted for small business then got divided into three groups: outreach, social media and research. Akalaonu was a part of the research team that looked for facts, statistics and stories to help the group.

“For example, I along with the rest of my research team, researched the various impacts of small businesses on our community and communities in general, among other areas like marketing strategies and national and regional campaigns that we can partner with,” Akalaonu said. 

Larrivee was a part of the outreach group, contacting local businesses on what the class could do to help.

“So far, I have looked at what different organizations and groups have done. I’ve called trustee Elizabeth Davies, and I’ve talked with her. She is super supportive of the project and is willing to help in whatever way she can. I’ve also called Linda from Somethings Brewing and talked with her on how she’s kind of adapted to COVID. And they’ve done a ton of work and just the collaboration that’s been going on. She’s talked about the sense of community and it was very amazing talking to some of these people because they’re very passionate about what they do,” Larrivee said.

The outreach group has also tried to contact the Grayslake and Round Lake Chamber of Commerce. This nonprofit, nongovernmental organization promotes the interests of local businesses and can help the class execute their publicity campaign. The class is open to any ideas the chambers of commerce might have.

“Once the holiday retail is over, businesses are still there and they still need support. So that might be a part of the campaign as well, just making sure once the holidays are over we haven’t forgotten to support our local businesses,” Sermak said.