Fifteen-year-old Felicity Sanger is now exploring a career in oral healthcare, a profession she had never considered before completing a leadership-through-service day with College For Every Student (CFES).
Sanger is involved in the College For Every Student oral healthcare initiative in the Adirondacks that trains students to mentor their younger peers for better dental health. The effort also engages high school students in hands-on activities and leadership development. On May 6, Sanger assisted professionals at High Peaks Dental in Plattsburgh, N.Y. who performed screenings on 105 preK-6 students. Interactive learning activities followed, where mentors demonstrated proper oral healthcare practices.
“The experience was thrilling,” Sanger said. “It helped me become a leader outside of school, and helped me understand there are different things you can do to support your community and help kids — to make a difference in their world.”
Sanger, a freshman at Beekmantown High School in West Chazy, N.Y, also spoke with High Peaks Dental professionals to understand the types of oral health careers she can pursue.
“I didn’t think about the dental field before this entire experience,” Sanger said. “Now, I am talking with dentists and hygienists to help me understand my options.”
In September, CFES introduced an oral healthcare component to its mentoring programs at partner schools in the Adirondack region. As part of that effort, dental interns and professionals are offering free screenings in rural communities, many of which face challenges in accessing preventative and ongoing dental care. The dental professionals are also mentoring high school students who then mentor elementary and middle school students. Over 500 K-6 students have received dental screenings and mentoring guidance, while 400 older students have been instructed regarding oral healthcare college-and-career pathways.
Hanna Whitney, a senior at Keene Central School in Keene Valley, N.Y., who is interested in becoming a dentist, said involvement with the CFES mentoring practice has helped her understand career options and the commitment required to work in the oral healthcare field. “Without the information and exposure I got through CFES, I wouldn’t understand what it takes to become a dental professional and how many options are out there,” Whitney said.
A grant from the DentaQuest Foundation, whose mission is to improve oral health, is supporting this CFES effort.
“The CFES partnership with DentaQuest has extended our Leadership Through Service and Mentoring practices to advance young people’s oral health and widen their career options in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics),” said CFES President and CEO Rick Dalton. “Through instruction from healthcare professionals, students not only help their peers they also develop grit, resiliency and the other Essential Skills they need in college and 21st-century careers.”