USAO Students Partner with Relay for Life

Students (left to right) Lariah Allen, Jamie Townley, Nataly Gonzalez, Amanda Trenzo and Dr. Linda McElroy (center), hold a Relay Card for Howie Jackson, a Chickasha resident who was the guest speaker and named the group’s “Hero of Hope.”

Paul Tointigh, Managing Editor

On a cloudy and drizzly morning, USAO students and faculty got the chance to interact with the community at Chickasha’s Wings and Wheels Event, taking place earlier this month.

The Community Service independent study, led by Dr. Linda McElroy, professor of Education, was focused on being a part of Relay for Life, a fundraiser where all proceeds go to funding cancer research. Four students were enrolled in the course for this year’s class.

The students began with researching the American Cancer Society (ACS) website to learn about various resources and programs. The students also researched types of cancer, using information from the ACS website to write a paper on what they learned, while also making use of USAO’s Library Database.

The students attended weekly Zoom meetings, discussing what they had learned in these meetings. Their one in-person class was held with Howie Jackson as a guest speaker. Jackson, who is a survivor of two rounds of leukemia, told his story at previous Relay for Life events, and decided to come and speak on it again to the students. Jackson, a resident of Chickasha, was named the group’s “Hero of Hope.”

On top of all of this, their main focus was the Wings and Wheels Event, taking place at the Chickasha Municipal Airport.

The class arrived at the airport at 7 a.m. to begin setting up a booth for the Relay for Life.

“We wanted people to become more aware about Relay for Life and the research against cancer,” Dr. McElroy said, in regard to what the booth was all about.

Not only did the booth represent their project, but it represented USAO as well. Dr. Jeannette Loutsch, professor of Biology, provided baked goods as a fundraiser to supplement the activities that students planned. Many visitors came to the booth, some being USAO alumni and others were prospective students.

While manning the booth, the students had a wide array of duties.

“Out at the airport at the event, each student planned activities such as a giant plinko board, a giant connect four board, and giant Jenga, as well as cornhole,” Dr. McElroy said. “I myself had hula hoops and giant tic tac toe boards. Some of the students put together a frame where you could take pictures.”

The students were also tasked with visiting with the community, as well as giving information about Relay for Life, and inviting people to place their names onto the Relay Honor Wall.

The Relay Honor Wall is a board that has the words “I relay in honor of…” and “I relay in memory of…” for people to place the names in honor of a person who is fighting with cancer currently or who has passed away from cancer.

With the day concluded, Dr. McElroy was pleased with her students and how they handled the event.

“My students were positive, upbeat, and hard-working, and I am so proud of them,” Dr. McElroy said. “It was a great project, and I think it made a big difference. Plus, just being a representative at the big Chickasha event of the month gave my students a wider perspective on the community.”

Dr. McElroy also said that she was glad to have been able to represent USAO, and do the children’s events for Relay for Life, something that her students have always done.

Dr. McElroy said she hoped that her students learned that they could make an impact on their community, as well as gain an awareness of types of cancer and resources for the people who battle against it.  She was also hopeful that they could see that USAO can interact with the community of Chickasha as a whole, and the booth at the Wings and Wheels Event was a great demonstration of this.

“I am absolutely looking forward to next year’s Relay for Life event,” Dr. McElroy said. “I liked the setting at the Wings and Wheels event, as it gave us a chance to interact with people who might not have come to a Relay for Life event otherwise.”

The Community Service independent study is a great way to get involved with the community and to learn how you can make an impact serving others.


Paul Tointigh is a fourth-year Communication major at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.