Health Occupations Students of America, aka HOSA-Future Health Professionals, is a global student-led organization that actively promotes career opportunities in the health industry, and four New Tampa-area residents who all attend Strawberry Crest High in Dover and participate in the school’s International Baccalaureate (IB) Programme have created “Project Pink” to raise awareness about breast cancer.

Strawberry Crest sophomores Elizabeth Chettipally, Aditi Nair, Anika Prasad, and Netra Vijay (photo) will participate in HOSA’s Community Awareness competition by focusing on breast cancer, which affects more than 250,000 women (killing about 42,000) each year in the U.S. alone.

“Our team first felt the urge to raise awareness for breast cancer when we saw how fiercely one of our team member’s family (members) fought against breast cancer,” Anika wrote in the Crest Critique. “Being females and students, we saw the lack of education and awareness of breast cancer in our community and decided to make a change.”

To begin their quest to raise community awareness of breast cancer, the four friends spoke to Archana Nair, RN, an advisor in the Breast Clinic at the Moffitt Cancer Center, and Shilpa Sachdev, MD, an internal medicine specialist in Wauchula, FL. They also met with Shreya Shivan, a student at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. 

“Through these discussions, our team realized that the subject of breast cancer is extremely personal, and a strong support system is needed by women survivors to reclaim feminine identity,” Anika wrote. 

In October — also known as Breast Cancer Awareness Month — the quartet began their efforts by staging a “Pink Out” (getting students at their school to wear pink, including the cheerleaders at the Strawberry Crest football game that night). They also participated in the Cory Lake Isles Unity Walk in November.

“I feel like that even though a lot of people know about breast cancer, when it comes to the facts, to the details, we’re all lacking,” Netra says. “There’s also a lot of stigmatization about breast cancer because, when you talk about someone’s breasts, it’s a very taboo topic in our society, so I feel like it’s something people need to know about before the diagnosis.” 

Anika adds, “We also want people to know that just because you’re diagnosed, it doesn’t mean it’s the end. We just want to spread hope to them.”

The group also will participate in Dr. Helene Robinson’s “Hugs from Heaven for Sister Warriors” breast cancer awareness podcast. Dr. Robinson is a faculty member at USF’s Sarasota-Manatee campus.

In addition, the friends recently hosted a HOPE Kit packing party (photo left), in partnership with the National Breast Cancer Foundation — with donated items, such as makeup, wrist bands, notebooks, travel mugs and other “goodies” — that will be mailed to women who are struggling with breast cancer across the country. 

Their school reposted the announcements the girls made on their Instagram about the packing party and also has allowed them to set up tables in the school’s library and talk with other students after school assemblies. They also were permitted to broadcast the “Pink Out” at the end-of-the-day announcements for a week before that event. The school’s Student Government Assn. and PTSA also helped spread the word about the girls’ efforts.

And, while there are more than 100 HOSA students at Strawberry Crest, the four friends are the only ones participating in the Breast Cancer Awareness campaign. They all will travel to Orlando April 13-16 to participate in the State of Florida Leadership Conference for HOSA, where they will make a presentation about their project. 

For more info, visit “Project Pink” on Instagram, “CrestProjectPink/Videos” on YouTube or

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