How One Class is Spreading Radon Awareness in the Danville Area

Garrett Haskins, Staff Writer

One class here at Averett has found a way to merge community service with an incredible field learning experience. Dr. Susan Huckstep, associate professor of communication studies, and her Advanced Public Relations class is working together with the Dan River Region Cancer Task Force to help raise awareness about radon gas in the Danville area.

Radon gas is an odorless and colorless gas that is released from the ground and is commonly found in basements of older homes. Exposure to radon is the leading natural cause of lung cancer and the second leading cause of all lung cancer cases behind smoking. Radon is most often found in the lower levels of older homes but can be found in homes that have poor ventilation also.

As dangerous as prolonged exposure to radon gas is, there are steps that can be taken to reduce the risk that radon poses. Radon test kits can be found at most hardware stores, home improvement stores, and on Amazon. The test kits are relatively inexpensive and give homeowners a way to determine if they should have their house worked on.

The partnership between the class and the Dan River Region Cancer Task Force came about through the Center for Community Engagement and Career Competitiveness (CCECC). Bryan Price from the task force found a way to engage both members of the community and students here at Averett.

“I have worked closely for some time with the CCECC and coordinating projects between our organizations,” Price said. “I thought it would be a great opportunity to utilize new and fresh perspectives and ideas to educate our community, while also addressing and educating a new audience.”

Radon gas is prevalent in the Danville area, and many of the homes here in Danville are faced with the potential risk of having high levels of radon gas. Fixing a home to reduce the levels of radon is a complex process, and many people have no knowledge of radon gas or the issues that surround it. Grayson Eaton, a senior from the local area who is working on the project, had no clue how serious radon was in this area.

“I had not heard about radon before the project in Advanced PR,” Eaton said. “I was very surprised to hear about the effects of radon can have on an individual’s body. It was very scary to hear about considering I live in a home with a basement.”

Work on this project started during the Fall semester in Huckstep’s Public Relations class. A group of students were tasked with creating a six month long public relations plan for spreading awareness about radon gas. Many of the students in the Advanced PR class were involved with the original project, and the work that was done in that class has transferred over to the Advanced PR project.

With it being a higher level class, there is certainly no lack of experience among the class members. Eaton was not a part of the original radon project but brings some valuable skills and knowledge to the table. Eaton is the social media coordinator for the South Boston Speedway, a position that he has held for some time.

“I feel that working at the South Boston Speedway has provided me with enough PR campaign knowledge, through various projects that I’ve been a part of, to enact the radon campaign successfully,” Eaton said. “South Boston Speedway has provided me with an inside look at what it takes to reach an organization’s stakeholders and publics,” he added.

Although the semester has just started, having the chance to work with an outside group has been beneficial for the students in the class. This has allowed them to gain experience with working with external partners and lets them help the community as well. Sarah Shropshire, a junior, is grateful for the opportunity to work with Price and the task force.

“Working with Bryan has been great so far. He has been a great help, and is awesome to work with,” Shropshire said.

Likewise, Price has been impressed with working with students here at Averett.

“I thoroughly enjoy working with Averett students,” Price said.  “I have hosted Bonner students for the last three years, so I am very aware of the great work that Averett students can produce. I really appreciate the fresh points of view and perspectives from the students.”

In addition to being impressed with the students’ work so far, Price believes that partnerships with local schools like Averett are beneficial to all of those involved.

“I would definitely recommend that local businesses and organizations partner with Averett. The students have proven to be hard workers, provide a fresh, new look at our work and produce quality results,” Price said. “Also, the partnerships provide much needed “real world, on-the-job” experience for the students. In addition, the partnerships introduce job opportunities here in the Dan River Region for the students after graduation.”

Working on the project has also opened student’s eyes to skills that come in handy for all classes or projects, not just this one. The most important being teamwork and good group communication.

“I have learned more knowledge in regards to the importance of team work when enacting a PR campaign,” Eaton said. “When there are multiple people working towards the same goal, it gives the project more life!”

Like Eaton, working on this project for two semesters has given Shropshire some valuable knowledge that she feels is important for others to know.

“I would advise students in the future to plan out their messaging goals, what they would like to accomplish, and deadlines,” she said. “Planning and communicating well with your group will help you achieve success.”