High school seniors study the appeal of downtown Rogers

by Robin Mero ([email protected]) 1,119 views 

Seizing the attention of teenagers requires using the right social media tools — hint, not Facebook.

And if you want young people to visit your business, have something cool they’ll be excited to take their picture in front of. That’s what panel of seniors from Rogers High School advised the Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce on Thursday (Nov. 29).

Don’t bother sending emails to teens. They aren’t checking those, the students said. They’re busy scrolling through texts and Instagram and Snapchat feeds.

As part of the school’s Senior Project Initiative, six seniors were asked by the chamber to research and analyze how art and music can be used to draw more people to downtown Rogers and fuel economic development. The team is one of 10 teams tackling community problems through the program, which is in its 15th year.

Art and graphic design teacher Lisa Cassidy oversaw the group’s work, and she called their project “the perfect real-world learning experience.”

The initiative is so popular that 200 students applied. Eighty were chosen, said Ashley Kelley Siwiec, the district’s communications director. Business teacher Tom Woodruff spearheads the program.

Students in November met with downtown merchants, surveyed shoppers and fellow students and collected data. This week they’ll present formal results of their work.

“There were so many things we found in downtown that we’d never seen or heard of, and it made me want to come back,” student Dante Pardetti said.

Drawing youth downtown will also attract their parents, the students agreed, especially when young people’s own art is being displayed.

People are visiting downtown Rogers for restaurants and coffee shops, but the students saw potential for increasing foot traffic — especially from young persons — to enjoy various art forms including theater and music.

“We’re trying to figure out what holes we have to fill to create a clear path from people not just eating and drinking in downtown Rogers, but getting involved in looking at the arts and creating their own art,” senior Hazelee Cox said.

Downtown Rogers has a lot of great architecture, well-lit and attractive alleys, and dogs to pet, students agreed. Since many young people decide where to go based on where they can find a great background for a snapshot, more murals painted in the alleys and on buildings would help with the draw, they said.

Teens use Instagram and Snapchat to gather much of their daily information, so merchants should use those apps in an organized fashion, students advised.

Cox suggested merchants create enticing images and promote them using paid advertising, particularly on Instagram. She recommended merchants take classes on marketing and social media from businesses such as global shopper marketing agency Collective Bias in Rogers. Also, some online marketing agencies will design ads and ad campaigns for small businesses.

Rogers High School students participating in the senior initiative also undertook projects at Restoration Village, Roark Group, Children’s Advocacy Center, Men’s Warehouse, Regions Bank, Rogers Public Library, Open Avenues, Teen Action Support Center and Elevate Gaming Company. Results are being formally presented this week.

Several of the students said in general, teenagers are far more available and eager to help the community than people realize.

Nonprofits and businesses can put up posters on campus to attract students who are looking for volunteer hours. They can also call the school and ask that information be sent via informational blasts to clubs, parents and students at large.

Karen Wagaman, the chamber’s vice president for downtown development, said the chamber will be disseminating final survey results and recommendations to downtown merchants later this month.