It was a team of eight high school students on a Brave mission – to promote oral health in rural China.
The Indian Hill High School (IHHS) Braves were first invited in June as highlighted speakers to share the mission and vision of the IHHS student-founded nonprofit organization Better Education for Stronger Teeth (BEST), which they were presenting to a crowd of 100,000 dental health professionals at the Sino-Dental Annual Exhibition. The Brave summer adventure didn’t end with the presentation. The IHHS students, along with 30 local dentists and nurses as volunteers, traveled to 10 schools to teach 3,980 children the importance of oral health. With sponsorship from the Chinese Oral Health Foundation, the IHHS students were able to donate oral health supplies to all 10 schools working 10 hour days and traveling to three to four schools each day. The Braves worked with families whose income is less than $2 per day. Many of the children walked two to three hours just to attend class. Indian Hill High School senior Diana Yue is the founder of BEST, and while her summer service trip is complete, her work continues.
“Since BEST was initiated as a school project, it was supposed to end after just one service trip,” said Yue. “However, by teaching and interacting with children living under the poverty line, the first trip ended up being such an eye-opening and learning experience for myself. With the support of many others, I was able to spread our mission. After witnessing the poor school facility and crowded dorm rooms for those whose parents work in the city for financial reasons, it presented an entirely opposite world to which we live in.”
In addition to the positive impact on dental education the IHHS students were able to have abroad, this trip allowed an exchange in culture and perspective, as the IHHS students taught English lessons, played games, and even competed in a soccer match with the students in rural China. Now, the IHHS students are back to class at Indian Hill with lessons learned to share with others.
“My biggest lesson from this trip is how lucky I am,” said Liz Radway, an IHHS senior, who served this summer alongside Yue.
“One is that I need to open my eyes to the events occurring around the world and be more globally aware,” said IHHS senior Sean Lu.
“My biggest lesson from the trip was the appreciation of the free, local, and quality education that is available to us, because I was surprised by the lengths many of these kids have to go to be able to learn,” shared IHHS sophomore Ryan Rammacher.
“This is the pinnacle of student passion paired with opportunity to create global competency – which is a strategic focus area for our district, and core to what we strive to achieve at Indian Hill High School,” said Indian Hill High School Principal Jeff Damadeo. “To say we are proud of Diana and our other students who spent their summer immersed in helping others would be a severe understatement. They are an inspiration to us as educators – as humans.”
“In the coming year, we hope to establish BEST more firmly in the United States and start expanding our mission to more people and places,” said Yue. “Because of our diverse community at Indian Hill, we plan on organizing a similar trip to possibly Western China next summer and maybe even Bangladesh.”
Photo caption: Indian Hill High School students volunteering with BEST with students from Yongning Elementary School during their summer service learning trip in China July 2019. The IHHS students pictured include Anna Keefer, Marc-Aurele Lallement, Sean Lu, Sten Lu, Liz Radway, Ryan Rammacher, Pietro Lavezzo, and Diana Yue.