LHS group receives state award for advocating sun safety

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By Jesef Williams

Did you know that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States? And that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime?

A club at Lancaster High School was recognized last month for working to increase local awareness on skin cancer and on measures people can take to prevent it.

The Lancaster High Career Center's Health Occupations Students of America, or HOSA, placed third statewide in a contest that asked student groups to complete a community service project on a health issue. The contest was sponsored in part by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

HOSA advisor Susie Burgess said the group chose skin cancer after being surprised by the number of people who develop the condition each year.

After the issue was chosen, the students worked most of the 2007-08 school year to spread awareness locally. They made posters to display in Lancaster High's hallways and handed out informational fliers throughout the county.

At this year's Relay for Life event, an annual fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, HOSA members served as the "sun patrol," spraying people with sun screen who didn't have any applied.

Last month, the group learned they were rewarded for their efforts with a $2,000 third-place prize in the contest.

"I was ecstatic when we actually won the award," Burgess said.

Lancaster High rising senior Chelsie Starnes said the project hits home.

She knows several people who have gotten skin cancer and have fortunately gotten over it.

'I really didn't realize how deadly it was," Starnes said. "It means a lot to me because I'm helping people with a situation they might encounter in their lives."

This is the first year Lancaster High's HOSA has placed at the competition.

The group has been in existence at the school for five years.

HOSA is a national organization that promotes career opportunities in health and aims to enhance health care.

Students who participate are typically interested in a career in a health-related field.

Contact reporter Jesef Williams at jwilliams@thelancasternews.com or (803) 283-1152