The annual study abroad trip by Roane State dental hygiene students to the Central American country of Costa Rica keeps improving and growing, program director Melinda Gill said.
Now in its fifth year, students in the program provided preventive care to 327 children during the expedition, conducted in May, including some youngsters who traveled three hours for the checkups.
“The word is truly out there that our students are coming to provide care,” Gill said.
The first year of the program, only 61 Costa Rican children received the preventive checkups. Gill said the students this year traveled to several areas including Atenas, San Jose Norte and Herradura.
“We plan to expand our area even farther next year to reach more and more children,” she said.
“To hear the students’ testimonies on how the program not only opened their eyes to the experiences of traveling to a Third World country, but how it has opened their hearts to their chosen careers to the benefit of those so in need of care was truly amazing,” Gill said.
She said the students told her how the experience “has given them so much confidence to come back to clinic and feel comfortable to provide care to those with a language barrier and to small children.”
Gill also said students “expressed how all the different experiences they had while in Costa Rica has helped them value the concept of ‘team’ and to step outside of their comfort zone.”
“I was touched when one of the students came to me and said, ‘I want to make a change, right here, right now, with me. I have been so wasteful and so ungrateful for all that I have. This experience makes me want to be a better me.’”
Roane State is a two-year college providing transfer programs, career-preparation programs and continuing education.
Founded in 1971, the college has campuses in Crossville, Harriman, Huntsville, Jamestown, Knoxville, LaFollette, Lenoir City, Oak Ridge, Wartburg and Clinton.
For more information, visit roanestate.edu or call (865) 882-4554.
Remember, eligible adults can now attend Roane State tuition-free with the new Reconnect grant. Learn more at www.roanestate.edu/reconnect.