Sun shade structure opens at Oakland Middle School thanks to grant

Wednesday, August 14, 2013 | 9:10 p.m. CDT
A new sun shade structure stands at Oakland Middle School. Former Oakland nurse Courtney Stout cut the ribbon at the dedication ceremony Wednesday. The structure was funded by a grant.

COLUMBIA — Bronze skin or shade? Suntan or sunscreen? More students are equipped now to make smart decisions about sun protection, thanks to former Oakland Middle School nurse Courtney Stout. 

Stout cut the ribbon at a dedication ceremony Wednesday evening for a new sun shade shelter near the entrance to Oakland Middle School. The shelter was funded by an $8,000 grant from the American Academy of Dermatology and will serve as a multi-purpose shade area. 

Stout learned of the grant from former Oakland principal Kim Presko, who is a member of the Sunrise Southwest Rotary Club with dermatologist John DeSpain. Applicants needed to prove at least a year-long commitment to sun safety and skin cancer awareness before applying. DeSpain, a member of the American Academy of Dermatology, provided the required letter of recommendation and served as the "adviser, cheerleader and coach" throughout the process, DeSpain said. 

"We have a great health class, but there wasn't anything in that (about sun protection)," said Stout, now the nurse at Battle High School.

Stout changed that, but she didn't stop with the curriculum. Ninth-graders who took the class created posters to hang around the school. Students helped film a SunSense video for KOMU, where they talked about ways to protect yourself from UV rays, Stout said. Sunscreen was made available in gym classes, and a skin booth at the health fair provided students with another chance to learn about sun protection.

The shade area is a covered pavilion that sits over a spot of grass that could be used during future events or just as a place for students to get out of the sun.

Oakland physical education teacher Jennifer Caine said students are easily caught up in a culture of looking tan and don't think about the long-term consequences of too much sun exposure. Stout's program taught students healthy alternatives to tanning, including not tanning. "Part of that education was to encourage them to be happy with their natural appearance," she said. 

Stout also emphasized "go with your natural glow" to help students of all skin colors understand they can be negatively affected by UV rays. 

Oakland Middle School was the only 2013 Shade Structure Grant Program recipient from Missouri, out of 21 program recipients, according to the American Academy of Dermatology's website.

Stout said more nurses are becoming interested, though, after Oakland's success. "We're hoping that more will apply for it."

Supervising editor is John Schneller.

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