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Valenti students turned the town turquoise to increase lung cancer awareness

Communication students volunteer with American Lung Association to implement awareness campaign letting Houston know lung cancer takes more women’s lives than any other form of cancer

University of Houston students typically try to paint the City of Houston red with their Cougar pride. But in early May, a group of UH students worked to turn the town turquoise in support of the American Lung Association.

Students from UH’s Jack J. Valenti School of Communication spent the better part of the spring semester volunteered their time and talent to the ALA’s Turquoise Takeover held May 11 - 15. Through this initiative, Houstonians are asked to wear turquoise and/or illuminate or decorate their offices, buildings and workplaces with that color. The goal is to raise awareness that lung cancer takes more women’s lives than any other form of cancer.

Led by professor Jennifer Vardeman, members of the UH chapters of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) partnered with ALA’s Houston office to promote Turquoise Takeover, as well as the Lung Force Walk at 9 a.m., May 30 at the UH campus. All of their work was an extracurricular effort and not for class credit.

Students obtained official proclamations from the City of Houston and Harris County supporting Turquoise Takeover and launched a publicity campaign that delivered turquoise ribbons to members of the media. The students also wore turquoise ribbons in the audience of KHOU’s “Great Day Houston,” and the show’s host Deborah Duncan was dressed head to toe in turquoise.

Through the students’ efforts with ALA, Houston’s City Hall was illuminated with turquoise lights May 14 and 15.

“It was rewarding working on something that I knew would make a difference,” said Stephanie Phillips, vice president of UH IABC. “Before working on this, I had no clue that lung cancer was the leading cancer killer of women. I thought breast cancer was. Now, I'm much more aware of the risks of lung cancer and how much awareness and support is truly needed for this disease.”

In addition to Phillips, other students participating in the campaign included Amanda Son, Gemrick Curtom and Anne Deady.

Houstonians can share photos of their turquoise transformations on the ALA Houston Facebook site and can learn more about registering for the May 30 Lung Force Walk at UH at the event’s website.

- By Mike Emery