Teresa Edelman, a senior at Northern State University, is working on finishing her honors thesis and it's one that will become a centerpiece on campus.
A tree in the middle of the campus green has been designated as a cancer awareness tree, thanks to Edelman's efforts.
She got the idea when Erin Fouberg, director of the honors program at Northern, posted a picture of a cancer awareness tree at the University of Notre Dame taken while she was traveling. That was last fall.
Edelman has since secured the permission from the president's cabinet to turn the tree in the middle of campus into a place where community members can reflect and remember those affected by cancer.
"I've definitely had support from everyone so far," she said. "It's inspiring to see how many people have jumped on board with the idea."
The tree is between Graham and Spafford Halls in the middle of the campus green.
Ribbons of different colors for different types of cancer can be tied onto the tree by those passing by.
"It will be very visible," Fouberg said. "It will look like a sculpture and you'll see the ribbons."
Edelman is raising money to make those ribbons available, as well as install a plaque and brick pavers in the shape of a cancer ribbon.
The cause is near and dear to Edelman. Her 6-year-old cousin died in 2010 after a battle with high risk acute myeloid leukemia.
"Throughout the whole thing he was super strong and he'd yell at you if you cried," she said. "For a 6-year-old, he was so mature for what he was going through and I learned a lot from him."
While organizing preparations for the cancer awareness tree, Edelman has learned a lot about the community.
"I feel like everyone I've talked to has known someone who had (cancer) or had it themselves," she said. "You see how many people it affects."
Because she will graduate soon, she also had to figure out how the project would be taken care of after she left campus. The honors program, which has students complete community service, has adopted the tree as a perpetual project.
"I'm so proud of her and the honors program," Fouberg said.
A special education and elementary education major, Edelman decided she wanted to center her thesis around the topic of childhood cancer awareness. The other part of her thesis involves researching and building a web quest for information that she hopes other education majors can use to learn more about the issue.
"I really want students to own their theses and find something they're passionate about," Fouberg said. "It has to make sense with what they want to do with their lives."
Edelman's projects will help teach other future teachers how to work with children who have cancer or other life-threatening diseases.
"There are going to be kids in your class who are affected by cancer," Edelman said.
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