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Canopy at C.H.A.T. provides health lesson

Students at C.H.A.T. Academy can take shelter from the sun thanks to an $8,000 grant, which paid for a blue, square canopy outside the back of the school.

The American Academy of Dermatology awarded the grant to C.H.A.T. Academy after reviewing 629 applications. C.H.A.T. hopes to raise sun-safety awareness on its campus.

Teacher April Harper said often African Americans are not aware of the dangers of the sun’s rays. She said many African Americans think their dark pigmentation protects them from the sun.

Harper, who wrote the grant with the help of C.H.A.T.’s physical education department, hopes the canopy will encourage students to actively protect their skin.

“It was important to educate the students in the Black Belt on sun safety and early detection,” Harper said.

Chantel Moore, a seventh grade student at C.H.A.T., said the canopy opens up the conversation about skin protection.

“I think it’s very creative,” Moore said.

Currently, students are creating a portfolio about melanoma, and how to detect and prevent it. Students have learned how to look for signs of skin cancer using small, hand mirrors. Chan’tel Crul, another seventh grade student, said the grant has been a wonderful educational opportunity.

“We just got a better understanding of what it means,” Crul said.

C.H.A.T.’s sun safety education will not stop with the 26- by 26- by 8-foot canopy. The school will host a health fair in March. The fair will offer on-site melanoma screenings, among other services.

C.H.A.T. will hold a dedication ceremony for the canopy Feb. 20 at 8:15 a.m. Superintendent Dr. Austin Obasohan, Mayor George Evans and dermatologist Dr. Mark Herron of Montgomery, who sponsored the grant, have been invited to attend the ceremony.

Herron said most sun damage to skin occurs within the first 18 years of life.

“If you can protect yourself while you’re a child and young adult, you’ll be less likely to develop skin cancer,” Herron said.

Obasohan said it is a positive any time Selma City Schools can improve students’ quality of life.

“It gives our children the opportunity to protect their skin and have a better life,” he said.