For Immediate Release:
May 25, 2018
Primary Media Contact:
Public Relations Specialist
A group of recent Laurel Ridge dental hygiene graduates has brightened the smiles of hundreds of Jamaicans, many of them children, during a recent visit to Negril in the western part of the island nation.
Lacie Brenneis, Jessica Mahon, Dane Hooser and Uswa Arain graduated from the dental hygiene program – a joint venture agreement between Laurel Ridge and Virginia Western Community College – on May 12. Three days later, they accompanied retired periodontist Dr. Byron Brill, his dental hygienist wife Kathy Kanter and Laurel Ridge Rotaract advisor Brandy Boies to Jamaica for the weeklong mission.
Boies, the director of outreach and marketing at Laurel Ridge, helped to revive the college’s Rotaract chapter. Rotaract is part of Rotary International, and is for those ages 18 to 30.
“I’ve been a Rotarian for 13 years,” says Boies, who is also the president of the Strasburg Rotary Club. “Since 2010, I’ve been hearing about this partnership between our local Rotary District and the Rotary Club in Negril, Jamaica.”
Eager to find an opportunity for Laurel Ridge students to serve those in other countries, Boies set to work to raise the necessary funds. The Rotaract Club held holiday parties, sold T-shirts, had auctions and wrote fundraising letters as part of this effort.
But, the biggest financial backing came from area clubs in Rotary District 7570, according to Boies. Generous donations from clubs in Strasburg, Front Royal, Frederick County and Broadway/Timberville covered the cost of travel and lodging, the Interact Club at Patrick Henry High School in Stuart collected dental supplies to give out, and the Winchester Rotary Club donated significantly to the purchase of one of two mobile dental units.
Those were used to set up a makeshift dental clinic in the group’s hotel in Negril. There, the dental hygiene students, along with Kanter, cleaned and screened the teeth of 102 people, 44 of them from the Negril Education Environment Trust, a nonprofit focused on combating crime through education.
“I treated one young man who worked at the hotel and had very badly-stained teeth,” Mahon says. “I removed the staining and the build-up, and he was just through the roof. He couldn’t believe his teeth were that white under there.”
Seeing those changes in people’s confidence and how appreciative they were after getting a cleaning was very rewarding for her.
“It was life-changing,” Strasburg resident Mahon says. “As Americans, we tend to take things for granted. We were actually changing people’s lives by correcting their oral behavior. It helped patients connect the dots from their overall health to their oral health.”
Poor oral hygiene can lead to diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.
“I would tell the patient, ‘I want you to go home and teach your brothers and your sisters what you’ve learned,’” says Mahon, who is a life member of the Girl Scouts and has earned the Gold Star with them.
The group also went to a primary school where they screened 125 students’ mouths and educated them on proper oral care.
“The children looked so well put together in their uniforms,” U.S. Navy veteran Brenneis says. “They are just sweet, sweet little souls.”
Toothbrushes and floss were handed out to everyone who was worked on.
Trips to the dentist for regular cleanings are anything but routine for many Jamaicans.
“You go to the dentist if it’s time to get your teeth pulled,” Boies says.
Mahon adds, “There were a few people we saw who tried to pull their own teeth, and we saw the aftermath of that.”
Brill and Boies spent time volunteering in an area soup kitchen. The Laurel Ridge Rotaract members also met with their counterparts in Negril.
“I loved the whole trip,” Brenneis, who lives in Mount Jackson, says. “It was amazing just seeing a different country and way of life. I loved working with the kids.”
Kanter, who serves in the Strasburg Rotary, and Brill, who is in the Winchester Rotary, have been volunteering their dental services in Jamaica for the past decade, sometimes with fellow Rotarians from this area.
“It was wonderful,” she says of this recent trip. “It far exceeded my expectations. The graduates handled themselves beautifully. They were clinically prepared. They were able to think through the situations they hadn’t previously encountered and figure it out. They did a great job.”
Kanter was instrumental in starting Laurel Ridge’s dental hygiene program at the Middletown Campus. Its on-site clinic carries her name. She had been on the program’s adjunct faculty, and continues to serve on the Laurel Ridge Dental Hygiene Program Advisory Committ
Founded in 1970, Laurel Ridge Community College is a multi-campus public institution of higher education. With three locations — Middletown, Warrenton, and Luray-Page County — the College serves eight localities in the Shenandoah Valley and northern Piedmont regions. The localities are the counties of Clarke, Fauquier, Frederick, Page, Rappahannock, Shenandoah and Warren and the city of Winchester. Laurel Ridge offers more than 75 associate degree and certificate programs in a wide variety of disciplines, in addition to providing access to bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs offered on site by a four-year institution. Laurel Ridge also serves the business community by offering workforce preparation programs for employees and employers. Laurel Ridge serves more than 9,000 unduplicated credit students and more than 11,000 individuals in professional development and business and industry courses annually.
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Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.