Focus on the Student Experience
Above and Beyond
A unique arrangement allows Dental Hygiene students to provide a much-needed community service—while receiving many benefits in return.
When students in Fox Valley Technical College’s Dental Hygiene program volunteer at the Tri-County Community Dental Clinic (TCCDC), it’s a three-way win. Those students receive hands-on dental office experience, dentists receive assistance in providing services, and patients get top-notch dental care.
Located near FVTC’s Appleton campus, the TCCDC opened in 2003 as an all-volunteer facility. Since then, nearly 500 volunteers, including 140 dentists, have treated almost 28,000 patients. Many of those volunteers have been FVTC students enrolled in the college’s associate degree Dental Hygiene and technical diploma Dental Assistant programs.
“Students volunteer independently and on their own time,” says Joan Rohrer, chair of FVTC’s Dental programs, adding that Dental Hygiene program students are required to complete 20 hours of community service in a dental-related activity during the three-year program. “Our students go above and beyond that—members of the May 2011 class had a 100 percent participation rate during the previous summer, spending 272 hours treating children.”
Besides the benefit to the community, those volunteer efforts help students develop the interpersonal skills to balance their technical skills. “One thing I hear from students is that they are initially concerned with the hands-on skills and academics,” Rohrer says. “But as they volunteer at the clinic, they get to see how professionals interact with patients, and consequently, they want to talk more to their patients and learn more about them.”
FVTC volunteers perform cleanings, provide fluoride treatments, take X-rays, and replace sealants. The clinic serves residents of Calumet, Outagamie, and Winnebago counties who have no dental insurance and a family income below 200% of the federal poverty level. “The dentists volunteer their time, and patients have continuity of care,” says Rohrer, who also is a member of TCCDC’s clinical advisory committee.
Feedback from those dentists is as positive as it is from the student volunteers. “Dentists look for volunteer efforts when they’re reading resumes and interviewing,” Rohrer says.
How FVTC Truck Driving students gain valuable experience while helping one of the state’s most vital non-profit organizations.
A few years back, Jeff Kujawa noticed semi-trucks at Fox Valley Technical College and had an idea. Why not offer students in the college’s Truck Driving program an opportunity to gain real-life experience while simultaneously supplementing his organization’s staff of drivers?
|Rob Behnke (left) and Jeff Kujawa
Kujawa, operations manager for the non-profit organization Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin (FAEW), contacted Rob Behnke, chair of FVTC’s Truck Driving program, and the two individuals established a partnership that has since seen 17 students volunteer for Feeding America. Thirteen of the volunteers landed jobs as a result of the experience, four of them with Feeding America. Founded in 1982, the organization is the state’s largest food bank and has distribution centers in Milwaukee and Omro. Last year it distributed 14 million pounds of food to about 330,000 people.
“Product comes in, we sort through it, label it, do a quality check, and distribute it to food pantries, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, churches, and to anyone who prepares food for homeless or abused people,” Kujawa says. “Fox Valley Tech students volunteer and help a great organization with a noble cause. In return, we try our hardest to help them land jobs.”
Behnke shares Kujawa’s enthusiasm for the partnership. “It gives our students real-world experience and helps them build tremendous resumes at the same time,” he says. “It’s a great opportunity for them, and they’re helping people in the process.”
FVTC’s Truck Driving program consists of a 10-week course for Class A commercial drivers and a four-week course for Class B drivers. “They’re popular programs,” Behnke says. “We’ll be expanding to offer an evening program as well to accommodate more students.”
Meanwhile, Kujawa is extremely pleased with the FVTC students. “I can’t say enough about those students, Rob, and his staff,” he says. “It’s a win-win for all of us.”