Two Litchfield High School students are practicing public relations with clients based in Litchfield.

As part of their work experience class with business teacher Justin Wittrock, high school seniors Ben Nelson and Tanner Ziegenhagen are public relations specialists promoting the Litchfield Downtown Council and Meeker Area Partners in Prevention.

Wittrock’s work experience class, which has been offered for several years, consists of 37 students this year, each either working or shadowing at local businesses. Students are in law offices, sheriff’s department, Towmaster, Meeker Manor, Custom Products and more.

Nelson and Ziegenhagen are interested in marketing, management and operating their businesses as potential careers, Wittrock said.

“What I’m trying to do is give students an opportunity to learn about potential careers,” Wittrock said, highlighting his role as a business teacher. “And through that, they are doing some marketing opportunities that maybe you may not get anywhere. These two particular students, through the class I’ve had, showed a lot of interest in the types of things that I teach.”

Through Wittrock’s connection with community organizations and local businesses, Nelson and Ziegenhagen landed opportunities to do what they enjoy. Their work consists of researching, creating logos, writing radio advertisements and social media marketing.

“So we’re trying to kind of kickstart their marketing campaign,” Nelson said, explaining his and Ziegenhagen’s work with the Litchfield Downtown Council. “We’re trying to promote activity on social media and draw more people that way. So it’s not heavily marketed right now, but that’s kind of our role to put a new spin on how people could get excited about downtown.”

Nelson and Ziegenhagen are also promoting teen health as part of their work with the Meeker Area Partners in Prevention.

“We’re trying to increase MAPP’s social media presence on Facebook, on Instagram, in person – like little cards or posters,” Nelson said. “We’re trying to reach mostly teens if we can because vaping has become a prevalent issue with teens… So we’re trying to slow that, if at all possible, (or) stop it.”

“(Teens) don’t really care about learning about vaping – they just do it,” Ziegenhagen added. “Administrators for the Meeker Area Partners in Prevention are just not experienced in social media, so they don’t know how to reach people our age. So they kind of turned to us to create ads for people our age.”

Recently, Nelson and Ziegenhagen attended a seminar in Red Wing, Minnesota, that involved discussions of rejuvenating people’s enthusiasm for downtown life in small towns in the Midwest.

“This is a partnership that will provide learning activities for Litchfield High School students,” Council member Darlene Kotelnicki said, explaining the relationship between the Downtown Council and students. “The two students accompanied us to Red Wing for a class ‘Getting Your Downtown Ready For Development.’ This was conducted by the Minnesota Main Street Program of which Litchfield Downtown Council is a member.”

The Downtown Council also requested Nelson and Ziegenhagen to create a marketing plan, including social media, logo design and various promotional materials, Kotelnicki said.

Currently, Nelson and Ziegenhagen have produced five logos, which they’ve submitted to the Downtown Council.

“Once Downtown Council decides on one, then we’ll scan that and actually produce a logo in Photoshop,” Nelson said.

Litchfield schools do a good job teaching professional skills that will benefit students’ future endeavors, Wittrock said.

“So our work experience program is really one of the things that are trying to help give our students an opportunity to learn about careers,” Wittrock added, “and also the careers that are available in Litchfield. The more students we can get to stay at home, the better I think the community will be.”

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