Dental Students’ Day of Service

Students in the School of Dental Medicine honored Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through acts of service in the community.

First year students Ekene Nnadika and Stephen Ogarekpe volunteer at Foodshare in Wallingford. (Dr. Sarita Arteaga photo)

This year, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, students with the School of Dental Medicine spent the day giving back to the community with a day of service.

“Bringing this back ‘in-person’ service after three-year hiatus due to COVID-19 with a variety of opportunities for service is inspirational and emphasizes the premise for the MLK Day of Service,” said Dr. Sarita Arteaga, associate dean for students at the UConn School of Dental Medicine. “Service is integral to our school’s mission and we want to emphasize that for our professional students in the curriculum and as part of their development as professionals.”

On Monday, dental students played  bingo and shared a snack with senior residents at Bread for Life in Southington, volunteered at a local pharmacy,  collected clothes and donations for personal hygiene products and glasses for the homeless, and sorted and prepared packages at Connecticut Foodshare in Wallingford and Bloomfield.

Richard Cardena, a second-year dental student, coordinated the visit to Foodshare in Wallingford.

“In the three hours that we were volunteering, we sorted about 8,000 pounds of food, which is the same as about 7,000 meals,” said Cardena. “It was rewarding to be able to make a positive impact on so many people while being able to enjoy spending time with my friends.  I really look forward to volunteering with them again.”

On campus in Farmington, students gathered to write letters to seniors for the organization Love For Our Elders and create origami toys for pediatric dental patients during procedures and appointments. First-year students Demitria Tsitsopoulos and Vivian Van originally came up with the idea.

“‘Love For Our Elders’ has a rotating list of requests for letters to be written to individuals who may need a little additional happiness and brightness to their day. Our letters included thoughtful messages, beautiful illustrations, and creative games/riddles. We realize the importance of feeling connected to those around us, so we are hoping this will bring a little bit of joy into the new year for these individuals,” Tsitsopoulos said.

“We also spent our time crafting origami for children in the pediatric dental clinics in the UConn Pediatric Graduate program,” said Van. “We made puppies, dinosaurs, ladybugs, dragons, jumping frogs, and flying cranes. Often times, children are apprehensive about dental visits, and we hope our pieces will bring them a small measure of comfort and make the experience more enjoyable.”