“Are you scared?” is the first question that Roaring Fork High School senior Leslia Serrano would ask each child as she ushered them out of class for a dental examination — often the first one of their lives.

Serrano told The Sopris Sun that most of the kids looked up at her with “big eyes and timid faces…and said, ‘Yes, I’m really scared.’”

As part of her senior capstone project, Serrano received training in dental assistance from the Aspen to Parachute Dental Health Alliance (APDHA) and helped with exams of underserved children at Crystal River Elementary School.  

Serrano said the experience opened her eyes to how much patience is required to earn a child’s  trust and be able work effectively, “poking, suctioning…inside their mouths.” She also learned more about the numerous dental problems many of these kids are facing.

The second part of Serrano’s capstone project was to develop a presentation on children’s oral health for parents of preschoolers in local Head Start programs. Most of the educational brochures provided by APDHA are in English, Serrano explained, so she translated the material into Spanish and worked it into a presentation.

Serrano describes herself as “really shy,” and typically hates public speaking. She was surprised to find that delivering her presentation was “the most fun” part of her project. “I know for a fact that there were a lot of parents that asked a lot of questions that they wouldn’t have asked if I weren’t there.” Several parents scheduled appointments immediately following her session.

The hands-on experience of her capstone project solidified Serrano’s interest in pursuing a career related to children’s health. Her dream at this point is to become a pediatric oncologist. She will be attending Colorado State University at Fort Collins next year, studying Human Development and Family Studies and pursuing a pre-med track.

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