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The University of Alabama

UA PR Students Team with Tuscaloosa Schools to ‘HALT’ Bullying


From left: Haley Flanagan (junior), Julia Gardial (senior), Benjie Ladrillono (junior), Jacquie McMahon (sophomore) and Kelsey Balzli (senior).

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Five University of Alabama public relations students are teaming with Tuscaloosa City Schools in efforts to stop bullying in local middle schools.

The students are working closely with the Tuscaloosa City School’s anti-bullying campaign HALT, or Harassment Awareness Learning Together, to enhance the campaign’s message and appeal to students.

The students, Kelsey Balzli, Benjie Ladrillono, Jacquie McMahon, Haley Flanagan and Julia Gardial, are competing in the national Bateman Case Study Competition hosted by the Public Relations Student Society of America. The students are enrolled in The University of Alabama department of advertising and public relations.

The UA Bateman Team faces more than 75 national collegiate teams as each works to create and implement the best anti-bullying campaign. The UA team will visit TCS middle schools throughout February to help HALT coordinators in all six schools facilitate games, activities and initiatives to increase bullying awareness.

“Since this is our first year of implementation, we are always looking for avenues to enhance our HALT program to make it more effective in our schools,” said Vickie Brown, director of student services for Tuscaloosa City Schools. “This group of University of Alabama students is passionate about helping find solutions to the issues of bullying, and we are confident it will impact our HALT program in a positive way.”

The team developed the “I Can” campaign to build on the current HALT message of standing strong against bullying. The campaign aims to create positive messaging that encourages students to look for kindness in their schools and classmates.

The creator of HALT and HALT coordinator at Eastwood Middle School, Shannon Beard, has high hopes for the campaign. Beard, a school guidance counselor, said she hopes the “I Can” campaign will re-energize students and faculty in Tuscaloosa City Schools. Working with the Bateman Team has been “an enjoyable partnership with a win-win outcome for all involved,” she said.

The students on the Bateman Team will work through March 20 to execute the “I Can” campaign and submit a finished plans book to the competition. The book will outline the campaign, explaining the research, work and activities that went into making “I Can” a reality.

“The campaign has been a lot of hard work,” said Jacquie McMahon, a member of the Bateman Team. “We’ve all put our hearts and souls into this program, and we can’t wait to see how it all works out. We’re excited to make a difference in the lives of Tuscaloosa students.”

The department of advertising and public relations, housed in UA’s College of Communication and Information Sciences, is the place for students that are passionate about the art and science of strategic communication. These students will come to know a faculty that possesses and shares extensive knowledge and that same fire to create big ideas. Together, they will develop the ability to create communication campaigns with the power to move people and make a difference.

The mission of the department of advertising and public relations is to continue to be a leader in generating and disseminating innovative concepts and methods for the solution of advertising and public relations problems, and to provide innovative, high-quality teaching of students. The mission of the department emphasizes the linkage between conceptual thinking, real-world relevance and teaching – all in the context of leadership. For more information about the department, visit

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.