By Nathan Holman, Director of eMarketing for SENIOR Solutions
When we first began The Rosenwald Project, no one at SENIOR Solutions imagined our efforts would lead us to Tuskegee University in Alabama where the original Rosenwald School Building Program began.
On June 14th-16th, scholars, historians, former Rosenwald students and even members of the Rosenwald family gathered at Tuskegee for the Rosenwald 100th Anniversary Celebration, which was presented by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It was a remarkable three days that honored the spirit of one of the most pioneering businessmen and philanthropists of his time – Julius Rosenwald.
Being in the mix with such elite company, it felt a little surreal and – quite frankly – intimidating for me to present SENIOR Solutions’ “local” film project. After all, my presentation followed that of a true historian and filmmaker who produced a full-length documentary on Julius Rosenwald – a documentary that features interviews with the Rosenwald family and has been shown at museums and film festivals across the country.
And I’m supposed to follow her?
Nevertheless, “my” big moment came, and as The Rosenwald Project began to play, I was quickly reminded that it’s not about me, or even SENIOR Solutions for that matter – it’s about the seniors in Seneca.
It was a remarkable moment to see Mr. Roy Mack, Mrs. Mary Ann Jones, Mrs. Rosa Lee Parker and Mrs. Willie Pettigrew on the big screen recounting life in the 1940s and 1950s and seeing the audience respond to their stories of segregation, family life and even fun times in an era gone by.
It was an honor to have audience member John Patterson stand and speak. Mr. Patterson now lives in Maryland, but was a student at Seneca’s Rosenwald School back in the 1950s. He was at the conference with no idea that his school would be highlighted during the celebration. Mr. Patterson is now National 1st Vice President of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc.
And it wasn’t the film credits or sponsorships that “sold” SENIOR Solutions and made us credible; it was our center members who shined as they spoke about what The Oconee Senior Center means to them and to Seneca.
I share this because The Rosenwald Project was a very special campaign for SENIOR Solutions – one that took on a life of its own. With most marketing campaigns, you create, spin and conjure up an image in hopes of capturing an audience, but the Rosenwald campaign was quite different. The story was already told; it was up to us to present it in a way that did justice to Julius Rosenwald and Seneca seniors.
Ultimately, however, it was these Seneca seniors who took us all the way to Tuskegee.
As SENIOR Solutions’ member Steve Smith said in our film, “Your life cycle is this… you learn, earn and return. And seniors are the best at this.”
That’s a lesson I learned firsthand.Click here for The Rosenwald Project