Miles for Smiles
Starting her senior year, University of Maryland student Linda Powers’15 knew she was passionate about two things: having an impact and dentistry. Prior to starting her senior year, Powers had traveled to Honduras, one of the worlds’ poorest countries, two separate times with an organization called Global Dental Brigades to serve those that needed dental care most. “I knew how important our work was. Seeing smiles on the faces of the people we treated was more rewarding that I can explain. However, there was so much potential for doing even more good,” she explained.
Powers knew that there were resources at Maryland that could help her have an even greater impact. During her last semester (Spring 2015) at College Park, she signed up to take Professor Bill Dorland’s Innovation and Social Change: Do Good Now offered through the Honors College. During the first weeks of the course, students are encouraged to share their passions with each other and create teams based on what motivates them. Each team competes in the Do Good Challenge later on in the semester. Powers used the course to spread the word about her cause and recruit a talented team to increase her impact.
Using the course as a launching pad, the team formed a student organization called Miles for Smiles. During the Do Good Challenge, Powers and her team organized a race on campus connected to the distance individuals had to travel in Honduras to obtain dental care and raised additional funds through an online crowd funding campaign. Hosting a race on campus was a challenge and Powers remembers that it required many steps that the team had not originally considered but the group raised over $4,000 during the Challenge. Powers said, “Maryland gave my friends and I the perfect platform to make that positive impact we hoped to achieve.” Impressed with work the team put into designing and executing their fundraising efforts, Miles for Smiles won the Project track of the 2015 Do Good Challenge as well as the audience choice award.
“After months of hard work, we were able to raise enough money to purchase 5 autoclave machines, 1 ultrasonic machine, and thousands of dental hygiene packs to send on the [January] 2016 GDB (Global Dental Brigade) trip….They will continue providing for the underserved communities for years to come,” said Powers. Miles for Smiles has also taken the steps to ensure that their great work continues. They have a new leadership team that is busy working on the second annual Miles for Smiles race.
Now a student in the Maryland School of Dentistry, Powers feels that the Do Good Challenge played a huge role in shaping her development. “This experience strengthened my passion for dentistry, it brought me closer to a wonderful group of dedicated Miles for Smiles organizers, and it even helped me gain perspective as I made one of the toughest decisions of my life: figuring out which dental school to attend. Most importantly, though, it showed me that anything is possible,” she explained.
Powers admits that sometimes she still has to pinch herself to remember that Do Good Challenge really happened. One of her favorite memories is that winning the Do Good Challenge turned what seemed like a crazy idea into a reality.