AVOCA — Borough native Justin Topa hopes to make a difference on a global level through public relations.
He already has a good start on that goal.
The Wilkes University senior recently received the Lawrence G. Foster Award for Excellence in Public Relations, a national student public relations award.
“I think we all kind of have this thought process where, as an impact, we can change the world on some kind of scale,” the 23-year-old said. “I saw public relations as my way to do that.”
The award, given by the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), honors the memory of Lawrence G. Foster, who started the first public relations department for Johnson & Johnson, an American multinational medical devices, pharmaceutical and consumer packaged goods manufacturer.
The award consists of a $1,500 scholarship to honor a student who excels in strong leadership skills and has had 14 different winners since it was first given out in 2002.
To be qualified, Topa had to submit an essay as well as letters of recommendation from faculty members.
The ceremony for the Lawrence G. Foster Award for Excellence in Public Relations was held in Atlanta, Georgia, but Topa was unable to attend and the award was mailed to him.
“I couldn’t attend because of some restraints,” he said. “We weren’t sure we could spend that money on a trip to Atlanta, especially because we’re going on a similar trip to New York City very soon.”
Topa’s leadership skills were built through his involvement in several organizations on campus.
He is editor of the Life Arts and Entertainment section of the Wilkes University newspaper, The Beacon, and chairperson for Zebra Communications, a student-run public relations firm.
Topa said Zebra Communications works with 10 to 15 clients per semester including businesses and non-profit organizations.
The skills he acquired in the public relations field helped Topa get an internship with the F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre, and he played a pivotal role in organizing a Small Business Saturday event at the center in November.
“I got to see all of the small businesses in downtown Wilkes-Barre come together as this big thing,” he said. “The really rewarding part was the night of the event, seeing the different members of the community from all of the different walks of life coming together to really enjoy what Wilkes-Barre has to offer.”
Topa will graduate at the end of the semester and is interested in law school, but he also wants to pursue the public relations field.
“I’m in the process of interviewing for different positions in the Philadelphia area,” he said. “I’m open to just about anything. My only stipulation is I stay within a close enough range in the Wyoming Valley, so I can come back to the community I grew up in and see my family.”