The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

88° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


UA: Don’t get toasted

*Editor’s Note: In this article Adam Luber is identified as the developer of the Sun Smart program. This is incorrect. Lindsay LaPresto developed the program. The Arizona Daily Wildcat regrets this error.



A new program through the Arizona Cancer Center’s Skin Cancer Institute shines a ray of light onto the dangers of ultraviolet exposure to a generation of tanning teenagers.

Project SASS, which stands for “”Students Are Sun Safe,”” will bring UA student leaders into high school classrooms to teach about sun safety. Four local high schools will participate in the pilot program starting in October.

Denise Spartonos, community outreach coordinator for the Skin Cancer Institute, created the proposal after noticing a lack of programs on sun safety geared toward high school students.

“”Teenagers are not using the sun safety prevention we know will help,”” Spartonos said.

Each presentation will be given during a 55-minute class period. The program includes a PowerPoint slide show and several activities.

“”It’s very dynamic, interactive,”” Spartonos said. “”It’s really designed for the high school audience.””

Presentations include information from the Skin Cancer Institute describing how to protect skin from sun damage. Interactive activities show students the differences in sun protection between various sunscreens and clothing.

Students can also look at their faces and the faces of their peers in a black-light machine that shows sun damage.

“”We actually have a volunteer that will come and put their face in the machine,”” Spartonos said. “”It’s a visual reminder that even a young person can have signs of sun damage.””

Steve Schween, a health teacher at Cienega High School, will have Project SASS come into his classroom this semester. He was approached directly by Spartonos about the program.

“”I thought it was great,”” Schween said. “”Obviously, we live in a desert. I think it’s a good awareness program for high school kids.””

Schween said many of his students take sun safety for granted.

“”I think they can definitely learn a lot more. They don’t know much,”” Schween said. “”They just care about looking tan.””

Spartonos will lead each program with three UA student peer leaders. About 25 graduate and undergraduate students with health-related majors were trained to lead Project SASS sessions.

Many student leaders plan on continuing in health education.

“”A lot of them are interested in community health,”” said nursing senior Jillian Rogers, who helped develop the program. “”It just helps them practice their trade.””

Medical student Adam Luber is a peer leader for Project SASS. He helped create Sun Smart*, a similar program geared at elementary and middle school students.

Luber said teaching high school students would be a new experience.

“”It’s a lot different teaching that type of demographic,”” Luber said. “”Third-graders seem to be extremely compliant.””

Luber said many high school students already go to tanning salons or do not wear the proper protective clothing.

“”Skin cancer, especially in Arizona, is a huge, huge issue among all people,”” Luber said. “”Now are the critical years to really provide protection.””

Spartonos said she hopes these students will continue to communicate sun safety throughout their careers.

“”So that they talk about skin cancer with their future patients,”” Spartonos said.

Luber said the teaching methods he learns in Project SASS will benefit him after medical school.

“”I think these types of educational programs are very valuable to any health care profession,”” Luber said. “”Having the opportunity and experience of trying to get people to wear sunscreen is important no matter what I do.””    

A $9,745 Community Connection Grant, according to a Project SASS press release, funds the pilot program. The grants are awarded by the UA Foundation to projects involving the UA in the local community.

University High School and Canyon Del Oro High School are scheduled to participate in the program.

Spartonos said the program will be reviewed in the spring. It may be offered as a for-credit course for UA student leaders in future semesters.

“”We certainly want it to continue,”” Spartonos said. “”We may have to adapt the program to fit the needs of the students.””

More to Discover
Activate Search