The Student Marketing Team at the Appleton Area School District (AASD) emphasizes building skills such as communications, collaboration, and perseverance. And “the best way to [build skills],” insists Cyndi Pavelski, marketing educator and DECA advisor, “is by doing.” She is the driving force behind the AASD Student Marketing Team, which finds marketing internships for students looking for real-world experience.
After eight years, “the group has essentially become a junior marketing agency,” says Pavelski, who adds quickly that it didn’t start out that way. “The biggest thing it needs is a committed community.” One of the group’s early partners was Dave Willems of Willems Marketing & Events, who provided some of the first internships. While the team’s internships have expanded beyond Willems to 40 clients in and out of the community, Willems continues to cheerlead for the group and offers an ear to Pavelski.
Now her community partners are business clients willing to meet once a week for check-ins. “There’s a lot of back-and-forth coaching and mentoring with my community members,” she says. For those considering a similar program, start with a small business or nonprofit, ask what they might need (like a logo or marketing research), and get a few wins under your belt.
Most importantly, says Pavelski, “It’s not as much about students leaving the program a strong marketing person as it is about them understanding themselves better, communicating with others, and building self-esteem.” She seems to have made an impression on the following four students.
Nhia Thao joined the AASD Student Marketing Team in his junior year, not quite sure what to expect. But marketing sparked his interest, and his friend joined, so he took a chance, too. He admitted that he was unmotivated at first by the technical aspects of marketing. Then, Ms. Pavelski assigned him a graphic design project. It engaged him. His second assignment was a notebook cover for a client. His creativity on the project surprised him. It was around this time that he and Ms. Pavelski had a talk. “I could see she wanted me to do good because she knew I could do more,” says Nhia. “Ever since that talk, my whole perspective changed. That was really when I got into graphic design.” Now a senior, Nhia will attend Fox Valley Technical College this fall.
Josie Mattioli says the AASD team helped her gain experience and insight into multiple career paths—social media marketing, event planning, and more. She job shadowed, sat in on meetings, worked with business owners, and even had her own business, an ETSY account that she used to market her products. Her experience got a boost when she interned with Appleton Downtown, Inc. and met her mentor. “[My mentor] gave me pointers on how to keep things short and simple when presenting my ideas,” says Josie. She also credits Ms. Pavelski, who “gave me the confidence to follow my passion,” she adds. Josie will be a freshman at UW-Stevens Point this fall studying interior architecture with a minor in marketing.
Tyler Kinney is currently a freshman at UW-Milwaukee studying sports management. “I feel like I’m super-far ahead of my peers,” says Tyler. AASD Marketing “opened my eyes” to all the areas in marketing, including digital marketing and graphic design. He got a digital marketing internship with J.J. Keller, a provider of regulatory, safety and compliance solutions for organizations. “I wanted to manage a team’s social media,” says Tyler. So, Ms. Pavelski arranged a sports internship at his high school. Tyler did an Instagram page for the Appleton North athletic programs and worked with the coaches to do promotions and game-day posts. “I’m expanding on my abilities to be as flexible as possible,” he says.
Alayna Hansel was a shy student, unwilling to “put herself out there”—emphasis on “was.” At 18, after graduating from Appleton, she started her own agency, We Rose Marketing, and now has 49 clients. “What’s helped my business is that I knew skills and how to communicate with business clients,” says Alayna. “I don’t think I’d be there if not for AASD.” The group was key to finding her passion in marketing because “it gave me the real-world experience that in-class wouldn’t have given me.” A client on one of her internships affirmed that Alayna’s help had really made a difference in her business. “It made a huge impact on me,” she says. “It’s one of the reasons I do what I do. I make it easier for the business to grow.” She is earning her marketing and business management associate degree at Fox Valley Technical College.