Karen Valdez is a Public Relations major at Weber State University and the co-winner of this year’s Utah Public Relations Student of the Year award.
Through this experience, she has not only built a plan to help contribute to the growth of the Major Brent Taylor Foundation, but she has also built confidence in herself and her ability to pursue public relations as a career.
Over two weeks, Valdez spent her time producing a yearlong campaign geared toward helping the foundation broaden its purpose.
Valdez focused on smart partnerships and strategies to bring awareness to the challenges military families face.
A panel of past students who spoke in her public relations writing class inspired Valdez to participate in this year’s competition after.
The panel discussed the many doors the competition opened for them.
After speaking to professors and past participants, Valdez felt that the competition would be a way for her to gain confidence in her ability.
Each year, potential participants join a conference call about the competition details and to introduce the client.
Everyone has the same client, and the main goal is to create the best and most beneficial plan for the client to help improve their nonprofit foundation.
Valdez’s first plan of action was to research.
She dove headfirst into learning about The Brent Taylor Foundation, Taylor and his family.
The foundation got its start with Jennie Taylor’s “40 for 40” fundraiser, which helped raise money put toward creating scholarships for Major Taylor’s alma maters, the University of Utah and Brigham Young Univerity.
The fundraiser was in honor of what would have been Tayor’s 40th birthday.
Valdez wanted to promote the foundation and expand its reach.
“I focused my campaign on Major Brent Taylor, I did a lot of research on who he was as a person,” Valdez said.
Valdez wanted to structure her events on the three pillars that Jennie Taylor gave to the foundation, which were supporting and honoring military families, training future service-oriented leaders and promoting community engagement and involvement.
Some of the events Valdez partnered with were the Ogden Marathon, which is sponsored by Zion’s Bank, and United Way’s outdoor cleanup day.
“One of the things that [the competition] wanted was to see that the ideas I put forward were plausible and realistic, so I would go the extra mile,” Valdez said.
According to Valdez, follow through and working with eager partners played a significant part in her success in the competition.
At the end of the two weeks, Valdez and the other finalists presented their public relations campaigns to the judges — many professionals in their own right — and Jennie Taylor herself.
“It was so nerve-wracking because these people know their stuff, and this is what they do on a daily basis. It was such a humbling experience,” Valdez said.
After her research on Brent and Jennie Taylor’s lives, Valdez felt she knew them, but they didn’t know her.
Presenting the plan she had dedicated so much time and energy to was a surreal experience, according to Valdez.
Despite all the hard work and successes along the way, Valdez experienced imposter syndrome and was shocked when she won.
Ultimately, becoming a role model for others and joining the legacy of Weber State was worth the effort.
“I have pushed myself to my absolute limits, I have really challenged myself and really been vulnerable,” Valdez said.