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Stenos and Sharpies

Members of the Future Dentists Club and Summer Predental Enrichment Program help stuff backpacks for Dallas school kids
High school students in the Summer Predental Enrichment Program, some of whom are also in the Future Dentists Club, assemble backpacks filled with school supplies for Dallas school children under Child Protective Services care.

Future Dentists Club, SPEP students fill backpacks, help others gear up for school year

It’s impressive just how much Willie Alexander knows about each of the students in the Summer Predental Enrichment Program.

“His father is our photographer at events,” she said, gesturing toward one male student lugging a box of notebook paper.

As a female student at a nearby folding table stuffed manila folders into a red and black backpack, Alexander shared that it was the student’s third year to participate in the program, and proceeded to relay all the specifics of her particular high school’s dental assisting program and on-site clinic.

It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that Alexander, education program coordinator for the Office of Student Development, gets to know the high school SPEP students quite well — after all, she’s director for students in grades 10 through 12 and has spent the last two or three summers with many of them.

Out of those students, nearly a third seeks exposure to the dental profession throughout the entire year. They’re members of the Future Dentists Club, a group of more than 20 active high school student members organized by the student development office at Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry. Club members’ typical activities include participating in lab work, taking impressions, and of course, contributing with community service.

On this sweltering July day, they’ve gathered in a Meadows District warehouse at Community Partners of Dallas, just a couple blocks from campus. For the next three hours, they’ll fill a staggering 400 backpacks with school supplies. These will eventually be given to children served by Dallas County Child Protective Services.

Though the students have only been working a few minutes, they have developed momentum.

“Hold the assembly!” someone yells.

Members of the Future Dentists Club and Summer Predental Enrichment Program help stuff backpacks for Dallas school kids
Students in the Summer Predental Enrichment Program and Future
Dentists Club stuffed school supplies into 400 backpacks during the
afternoon they worked at Community Partners of Dallas.

The girls, working in an assembly line spanning two folding tables, have already outpaced the boys, who pull crayons, notebook paper and other items from the shelves, load them in carts and wheel them over to the tables.

“It’s good to give back. Once you work on someone’s teeth,
you feel like you’re giving back to the community.”
— Saad Hasan

Assembled backpacks line the surrounding metal shelves. Some have splashes of fuchsia and purple daisies for the girls; others feature camouflage and sports themes for boys. All have a circular ring of construction paper stapled around the top of each pack’s handle, emblazoned with a specific grade.

While the community service projects aren’t mandatory, the Future Dentists Club members actively pursue them, whether it’s in the summer during the predental enrichment program or during the school year. This past year, they volunteered at Operation Care Dallas, a nonprofit ministry that caters to the physical and spiritual needs of the Dallas homeless community, and helped with setup for the Asian-American Dental Society’s Sealant Day, among other activities.

Saad Hasan, an incoming 12th-grader who has been in FDC for three years and plans to pursue a career in dentistry, said the club’s community service activities serve as a great way for him to get involved.

“It’s good to give back. Once you work on someone’s teeth, you feel like you’re giving back to the community,” Hasan says. “It’s imperative that we do that.”

For Clarissa Garcia, an incoming high school senior enrolled in her school’s dental assisting program allowing her to graduate as a registered dental assistant, the community service projects not only build her résumé for college plans but also prepare her for a future in dentistry.

“You’re gaining people skills,” says Garcia, who found out about the FDC program from Dr. Ernestine Lacy, who is associate professor and director of student development at the college and fills the roles of teacher, mentor and dentist at Garcia’s high school. “Working in dentistry is about working with people in different situations. This exposes us to that environment.”