UM students Lexy Sanderson, Paige Wyatt, Sally Ozment and Allison Swiney pose with Glow Race gear. Photo courtesy of Danielle Roberts

The goal was simple – race against the other teams, be the first to put assemble the puzzle and uncover the secret phrase. Armed with a book of clues filled with hints on where to go, groups of students departed from UMOM ready to learn more about United Way’s message and simultaneously propel Montevallo to another win in United Way of Central Alabama’s social media contest in the first ever Montevallo United Glow Race.  

United Way of Central Alabama (UWCA) is a regional branch of United Way Worldwide, a nonprofit organization that exists to help raise funds and awareness for partner agencies. UWCA works closely with many Central Alabama organizations such as Shelby Emergency, Boys and Girls Club, Salvation Army and numerous others. 

The goal of the social media contest, however, is something a little different. The challenge aims to raise awareness of UWCA to a younger audience, inspiring them to begin thinking of things they can do to benefit their community. For the past two years Montevallo has competed against universities like UAB, Samford and Birmingham Southern to see which school can generate the greatest success with their campaign. The idea of success is measured via reach of the page, which includes likes, shares and general interactions with individual posts. For two years now, Montevallo has managed to win the contest and this year’s team hopes the glow race will allow their winning streak to continue. 

Leading the charge for the event was a group of four marketing majors chosen by their professors to be in control of the project. These four girls were the minds behind Montevallo United’s inaugural glow race. 

“In discussing this challenge with the UWCA team, the idea of ‘viral positivity’ came up. With this challenge being focused on social media, we couldn’t ignore the fact that social media tends to be a negative place and a place of materialism. This brought about the notion that Montevallo United’s campaign should bring light and positivity to our follower’s feeds,” said Danielle Roberts, one of the four student-planners. “Not only are we doing this through our visual branding with bright colors and fun messaging, but we’re also using our social media platforms to shine a spotlight on philanthropic students who have impacted their community through volunteering with UWCA partner agencies.”   

“Giving back is easier than people think and even the smallest thing can help,” said Erica Roberts, president of UWCA. She mentioned how they plan on expanding Montevallo United on campus into a larger organization in the coming semesters, but in the mean time she encouraged students to get involved in other ways.  

One such way students can engage with United Way is through volunteer opportunities with partnered organizations. Providing monetary donations to United Way of Central Alabama is another route one can take to funnel directly back to the community. 

Erica Roberts went on to pose the question, “What was the last kind thing you’ve done for someone else?” She explained that by always keeping that question on her mind, it inspired her to continue to do more for her community and organizations like UWCA. 

As the race participants returned to UMOM, they swiftly began to put together the puzzle they had been tasked with assembling. The words on the pieces spelt out, “Build a great community by bringing people together to help others.” That is the mission statement of United Way of Central Alabama and the goal of Montevallo United’s social media campaign. The Glow Race functioned as a way to bring the students of the University together with the businesses of Main Street, all while educating them on the many charities they can help via United Way.   

To learn more about Montevallo United, follow them on Instagram @montevallo_united or on Facebook at /MontevalloUnited.