Students and faculty at Aiken High School wore bright smiles as they welcomed guests to the grand opening of their brand-new dental center. Operating through a partnership with the Cincinnati Health Department, the center will provide services to more than 2,000 students, including those at Aiken and from five surrounding elementary schools.
The dental center is the newest addition to CPS’ school-based health center sites.
After a performance from Aiken’s Falcon Senior Choir, Principal Lisa Votaw addressed the audience of supporters, alumni and partners. “This is near and dear to my heart, because our kids deserve every opportunity,” she shared. “Our community has come together to create an environment where the playing field is level. Students don’t have to miss class, make appointments months ahead of time or travel all the way downtown. We can treat them right here.”
“It’s nice to have the resources we need literally on the floor below us,” says Aiken senior Briana Gordon. “Aiken is a second home for a lot of us, and it’s great to know that we don’t have to step out of our comfort zone or miss class to get the care we need.”
The health department’s Dental Director Nancy Carter commended Principal Votaw for her commitment to the initiative, noting that the department had “not had an opening with better support from a principal than this one.” As Carter discussed the high number of students already frequenting the new dental center, she said it was “a direct result” of the buy-in from the staff and principal. “The students are fully invested in the program, and we feel incredibly lucky to have had this opportunity at the school,” she continued.
But the buy-in didn’t just happen at the school level. Interact for Health President and CEO Dr. O’dell Owens made sure to applaud the school district as well. “They are always so open to what we are doing and really want our students to be as healthy as possible. Because once a student is healthy, fed and mentally well, they can learn, truly learn.”
“This is the kind of care that makes all the difference,” Assistant Superintendent Shauna Murphy shared. “Imagine being in pain in school while trying to prepare to sing or take a test.”
Kadia Sy doesn’t have to imagine. A junior at Aiken, Sy remembers the difficulty she faced when she had to make a dental appointment for her wisdom teeth. Recounting the experience, Sy said that she had to miss an entire day of school to see the dentist and waited hours to receive treatment. Shortly after Aiken’s dental center opened, Sy made another trip to the dentist — but rather than missing a day of school, she missed 45 minutes.
The Dental Center at Aiken will undoubtedly change lives in the community for the better, but it couldn’t have been done without help.
Interact for Health, Delta Dental Foundation, Adec Foundation, Ohio Dental Association and the Cincinnati Dental Society’s Oral Health Foundation partnered to provide all start-up costs and some first-year operational costs — funding that Board of Education President Carolyn Jones says directly affects the students.
“The marvelous nature of our students comes from the support they receive from our partners,” Jones shared. “The schoolhouse has become the cornerstone of the community, and each of our 600 partners has brought something truly unique to the table.”
To learn more about all the great things happening at Aiken High School, check out aikennewtech.cps-k12.org.