In 2017, Smile Train started the Student Ambassador Program to connect and support high school students interested in volunteering their time, talent, and passion for children living with untreated clefts in the developing world. Students applied from across the country, and 30+ students were selected to join the program.
Over the following months, these dedicated students joined group calls, email chains, and social media exchanges to share their successes, learnings, and best-practices. To provide additional support to the highly-engaged group and help foster their advocacy and fundraising skills, Smile Train invited the ambassadors to their New York headquarters for a work-intensive weekend of learning and community-building at the inaugural Student Ambassador Conference.
Prior to the student ambassadors arriving at the conference in February, Smile Train’s Manager of Community Fundraising Ikiah McGowan imagined that it might take some time for the group to warm up, since this was the first time the students had met in person. To her surprise, the group clicked right away and started exchanging results from their recent fundraising and awareness-raising events.
Next, Ikiah and Smile Train’s Director of Community Fundraising Adina Lescher, surprised the group with a video call with a Smile Train partner surgeon and several of his patients in Mexico City. Other sessions included a career panel with young professionals, a small group project to solve a business case study, and a deep dive into Smile Train’s programs.
The conference wasn’t all business — the group also gazed across The Big Apple from atop the Empire State Building’s observation deck and enjoyed dinner at a local restaurant.
After a weekend of exchanging ideas, social media handles, and bright smiles, one participant stated, “Attending the Student Ambassador Conference and being able to be a part of the Student Ambassador Program has been such an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – it’s truly made me accept myself for who I am. Thank you for letting me join Smile Train’s family!”
Ikiah commented, “Thank you to everyone who attended this inspiring weekend. With our committed Student Ambassadors championing Smile Train’s sustainable approach to cleft repair, the future looks brighter than ever.”
Visit the Students page of our site to learn more about the Student Ambassador Program.