OGDEN — A Weber State student will be playing a key role in growing the Major Brent Taylor Legacy Foundation — before she even graduates from college.

Each year, The Public Relations Society of America Great Salt Lake and Utah Valley chapters hold a state competition for college students studying public relations. To compete, students develop a year-long marketing plan for an organization selected by the chapters.

The selected organization this year was the Major Brent Taylor Legacy Foundation.

Brent Taylor, former mayor of North Ogden, was killed in Afghanistan on Nov. 3, 2018, while serving as a member of the Utah National Guard.

Judges for the competition included Brent Taylor’s widow, Jennie Taylor, and local PR professionals.

Karen Valdez, a senior in Weber State’s public relations program, was selected as a co-winner of the statewide competition for her plan to integrate the foundation’s work with several local events.

As a winner, Valdez will receive $1,000 — and the chance to actually execute elements of her vision as an intern working with the foundation.

“The Major Brent Taylor foundation was launched shortly after my husband’s combat death, without much time to organize,” Jennie Taylor said in a Weber State press release.

“The college students who participated in this competition all presented great ideas and strategies, which I wouldn’t have come up with on my own,” Taylor continued. “The foundation is thrilled to move forward with the assistance of this year’s co-winners, as well as with the support of the other finalists of the competition. We are forever grateful for the guidance we are being given to get this foundation up and running in an organized and innovative fashion.”

Valdez shares first place with Samantha Johnson, a student at BYU-Idaho. (BYU-Idaho is under the coverage area for the Greater Salt Lake Chapter of PRSA.)

The two students presented complementary proposals, with Valdez’s focused on strategy and integration with community events, and Johnson’s on the design of the foundation’s branding, Valdez said.

Valdez didn’t just come up with a plan, though. She actually laid the groundwork for several events before the competition.

To prepare her proposal, Valdez reached out to organizations to gauge their interesting in partnering with the foundation. Many of them expressed an interest.

“That’s actually one of the greatest things that has come out of this competition ... all of the back work I did is coming to life,” Valdez said.

Valdez proposed events that connect to Brent Taylor’s life, work and values.

Taylor’s last Facebook posts made in Afghanistan was about the importance of voting and encouraging people to participate in elections, Valdez said.

So Valdez proposed a voter registration event at North Ogden’s Barker Park Amphitheater, which Taylor had a hand in creating when he was mayor, Valdez said. Taylor was also a supporter of the arts, so Valdez envisioned a voter registration event that simultaneously showcased the musical talent of local high school students, with Jennie Taylor as the emcee.

Other potential partnerships, which are early in the process, include working with the Ogden Marathon to raise proceeds for the foundation as part of the marathon’s 20th anniversary and partnering with Real Salt Lake for its annual Independence Day home game.

Two runners up for the 2019 award, Conner Arvidson and Kylie Harris, are also Weber State students.

This was the the 13th year of the Utah PR Student of the Year competition. Since 2011, Weber State students have won a top prize seven times, according to a Weber State press release.

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