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Project Smile: Illuminating Lives Through Dental Outreach - An Inspiring Interview with Meagan To

Updated: Sep 1, 2023

Today, I had the privilege of interviewing Meagan To, an extraordinary high school student, dedicated health equity advocate, and respected school district delegate. Our conversation revolved around her remarkable initiative, "Project Smile," an inspiring outreach program she built with the help of her peers.



Could you tell me a bit about yourself?

"I'm currently a rising senior at George Washington High School. I am a health equity advocate, extending my passion through my work in Project Smile and as a student delegate at the San Francisco Unified School District's Board of Education. After high school, I hope to major in public health or business and then eventually attend dental school for post-graduation studies."



Could you tell me about Project Smile and what inspired you to create it?

"Project Smile" is a completely youth-led non-profit dedicated to bridging the gap between underprivileged communities and dental care. I was initially inspired by my mom's personal story. Growing up in Vietnam, she didn't have access to proper dental care, including basic necessities like toothbrushes and toothpaste. These are essentials that many people take for granted, but I've been aware of their significance from an early age. I feel incredibly privileged to have access to such resources. The field of dentistry is interesting to me due to its blend of science, healthcare, and art, involving extensive hands-on work. It's a truly fascinating field."


In speaking of her passion and inspiration for "Project Smile" Meagan To highlighted that one major thing resonated with everyone in her community:


"We all know people who lack access to these fundamental supplies."

With the help of mentorship from Her Idea and her unwavering motivation, Meagan was guided through the process of starting her program, including building a team, project management, and eventually applying for 501(c)(3) status!


How does Project Smile address the issue of oral hygiene in the community?

"We donate dental hygiene kits to underprivileged communities in San Francisco, primarily focusing on housing centers, food banks, and other locations with which we connect. Additionally, we organize community resource and awareness events, such as our upcoming symposium."



What is next for Project Smile? What is next for you?

"For the short term, the Project Smile symposium is scheduled for this Saturday. It is a completely free dental event open to all ages. The goal of the event is to spread community resources and raise awareness about the overlooked issues in oral healthcare. The symposium will feature a wide range of very inspiring guest speakers, including dental students and public health professionals. Additionally, we will provide hygiene instruction, distribute dental kits, conduct dental screenings, and offer complimentary breakfast to all guests.


For the long term, I hope to continue Project Smile throughout college. I will probably turn it into a student-led organization and recruit both high school and college students. We are currently in the process of obtaining 501(c)(3) status, which is super exciting."


"My goal is to keep building this organization and help it flourish."

"Personally, I'm in the process of applying for college, which is super hectic. I hope to attend a local school or choose one in a city, as it would be a smoother transition for me after growing up in San Francisco. I'm considering options in the Bay Area, New York, Boston, or Chicago."


Meagan's hard work and resilience are clearly visible in how much "Project Smile" has already accomplished in the local San Francisco communities. Their work is pioneering efforts to standardize oral healthcare, something easily overlooked for those who readily have access to it. Grateful for having the chance to talk to Meagan today, she leaves you with this:


What advice would you impart to the next student aspiring to create something similar to what you have accomplished?

"Something I’d let the next mentee know is to do your background knowledge to make sure that the need is there. You can’t solve something if there’s nothing to solve. Make sure to be knowledgeable on the topic of your project because many people will ask you questions regarding what inspired you and the impact of your project."




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