I am a Family Access Network (FAN) Advocate in Oregon. I have been an advocate since 2006, serving middle schools. Over the years I have had the privilege of working with families and getting children into the ASK program.
Almost exactly 2 years ago, I had a family come into my office and the parent was in tears. She was crying because her little girl, 12 years old at the time, would sob in the morning because she didn't want to come to school. Her teeth were extremely crooked and other children would make fun of her. I don't know if you remember middle school, but it is a very difficult time and hurtful words are even harder to brush off.
"She did not want to draw any attention to her teeth. She was very depressed"
Her mother couldn't get her to go to school on a regular basis. When she did attend, she did not do well in classes. She walked the halls with her head down hoping her hair covered her face, she never smiled and talked very little to anyone even her teachers. She did not want to draw any attention to her teeth. She was very depressed. During that first meeting, we all talked together about how the girl felt about her teeth and it became clear that applying for ASK was a place to start for her.
Thankfully, she was accepted and she started on her journey to a better smile. Even before she got her braces, she felt hopeful. She felt that being able to go through the process was like opening a new door for her. She felt that people cared and were giving her support to better herself.
"She felt that being able to go through the process was like opening a new door for her"
During her 7th grade year, she was a very different student. She smiled in the halls with her head held high, laughed, made eye contact with others, attended school on a regular basis, acquired a great group of friends and got good grades. She showed off her braces proudly. To her, they were and are a passage to a happier self. On the last day of school in 7th grade, she brought me a thank you note and plant. She told me how happy she was and how the braces and volunteering have made such a huge difference in her life. She was thankful for the whole process and does not regret for one moment for taking the first step on the journey.
As I said, it has almost been two years. She is in 8th grade this year. Still smiling with her beautiful braces and enjoying being a kid. We are thankful for the "A Smile For Kids" program. Without it, I am not sure if she would be attending school at all. How amazing!
Could anyone ever imagine how life-changing braces can be?"