This week, local charity Smile for a Lifetime and Serenity Orthodontics in Cumming bestowed two scholarships on local teens as part of their continuing outreach effort to improve the lives of students in need.
But the selected students weren’t presented with a monetary scholarship, even though there was an oversized check at the giveaway; instead, they were given a scholarship for new braces and the beginnings of a more confident future.
“Today we are changing the lives of both Stormy and Paola by giving them an opportunity that they would not normally have with braces,” said Niki Adams, president of Smile for a Lifetime, at a ceremony held Thursday. “Changing their smiles to build self-confidence and really change their future.”
Paola Ruiz and Stormy Sumner received braces as part of a scholarship program from Smile for a Lifetime at Serenity Orthodontics. – photo by Bradley Wiseman
According to Adams, over the last year and a half Smile for a Lifetime has searched the community looking for young people in need of braces and orthodontic work but who would normally be unable to pay for such expensive work on their own.
She said that with the help of Forsyth County Schools, they have been able to give scholarships to several teens in the area. Their goal is to treat at least 12 children in 2018 and 2019.
“Sadly, your first impression is made within like eight seconds and that involves your smile,” Adams said. “(They) deserve a pretty smile, and it doesn’t matter what your finances are.”
Unlike other similar programs that assist families with dental work, Susan Podray of Serenity Orthodontics said that families bear no cost for the Smile for a Lifetime program and can apply totally free twice a year.
But she said that once accepted, their scholarship comes with one string: 40 hours of community service that the teen must complete during the time of their treatment to the charity of their choice.
“It does not cost these teens and these families anything to apply … but we do ask the teens to pay it forward,” Podray said. “The form of community service that they do doesn’t matter to me, they can go to a soup kitchen or whatever it is and as long as they are giving back, for me that’s enough.”
After the scholarship giveaway on Thursday, Christina Osborne, mother to Stormy, one of the teens who received a scholarship, said that this gift means the world to her daughter.
“It means a lot, it gives her self-esteem,” Osborne said. “She’s been through a lot, and this is going to give her what she deserves.”
She said that they had been looking at braces for years, but until this point, they thought that it wasn’t realistic financially, despite how much Stormy needed them.
“I’m so grateful she gets to have an opportunity to have them done,” she said. “As long as she’s happy, that’s all that matters.”