COD Alumna Uses Transformational Power of Color to Infuse Chicago-area Boys and Girls Club with Optimism and Empowerment

By: Angela Mennecke

A Project Color Corp volunteer helps a student paint a planter box.

College of DuPage Interior Design alumna Valerie Jardon was one of three local designers to bring the non-for-profit organization Project Color Corps to the Chicago area infusing color, brightness and energy into their first project for the Boys and Girls Club at the James R. Jordan Club.

A professional muralist transformed the buildings’ white stucco exterior via kaleidoscopic environmental graphics incorporating the club logo, while students and community members painted benches and planters to beautify the surrounding school area.

“Investing the time and resources to paint the center in more vibrant shades in consultation with the kids gives them both a sense of hopefulness as well as the feeling that they are important — that their views count,” Jardon said. “With a professionally executed paint job, the hope is that the school will become a beacon in a challenged neighborhood.”

The mission was to not only revivify the physical building but also engender positivity and hope in the students. Many come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and they come to the club to find friendship, leadership and a sense of peace, Jardon said.

“Weighing in on everything from the concept to the color palette, the students got the chance to play client, designer and artist,” she said. “We teach students about color, the power of color and how color can impact their lives.”

Hear more about Jardon's story

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Jardon credits her love for design to her time studying at COD. She was drawn to the Interior Design program because of the diverse opportunities available and flexibility of class offerings.

“I was ultimately won over by the balance of creativity and technical aspects”, she said. “I loved how challenging and how real COD was. The classes I took gave me an amazing foundation for the real world that has allowed me to flourish in my career. It also opened up a door for me to give back to the profession through teaching and mentoring, which helped me grow personally.”

After earning her Associate in Applied Science degree and the CAD certificate from COD in 2005, Jardon transferred to the Illinois Institute of Art in Schaumburg as part of the 2+2 transfer agreement and received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. She spent the first six years of her career in educational and municipal design and then moved to corporate design.

She currently works at IA Interior Architects in the Chicago office as a senior strategist focused on workplace strategy.

“After years of designing and project management, I found my passion really lies in the upfront problem solving, human-centric planning, and deep dive conversations that lead organizations to the best design solution to support their needs, goals and people,” she said.

As for COD, she has worked as an adjunct instructor and her daughter is attending in the fall.

“My oldest still remembers sitting on my lap in COD classes when childcare fell through,” she said. “I love how life goes full circle. COD opens so many doors that you don’t even think is possible when you’re in school.”

Learn more about COD’s Interior Design program.