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and believe that you will go far!
Read the winning essays below:
A Smile Can Change the World
By Dylan Verbanatz
Since as far back as I can remember, I have had a desire to change the world for the better. Countless times I have said to my mom, “Mom, I’m going to change the world one day.” She would just smile and say something like, “I know you will, but you’ve already changed my world for the better” or something nice that moms say. I still have that strong desire to change the world for good, but have realized that many times we can change the world by small means such as a smile. I do believe that a smile can change the world since smiling can make a difference in yourself; it makes a difference in those around you that you smile at; and a smile is a universal sign of goodwill.
First, a smile can make a difference in yourself since it can make you happier and healthier. In the article “A Smile Can Change the World” by Megan Bailey, Bailey quotes a study saying, “Smiling lets your brain release endorphins and serotonin, also known as your ‘feel-good’ hormones. These help keep stress at bay. Smiling seems to give us the same happiness that exercising induces in terms of how our brain responds. Other benefits of smiling include living longer, increasing your pain threshold, reducing aggression, and having a strong immune system.” In other words, smiling has many benefits on our own physical and emotional wellbeing. These benefits help make the world a better place since boosting health and wellness for the individual enables them to be the best they can be without illness, and it reduces healthcare costs. Furthermore, individuals are less stressful, less aggressive, and happier, which creates a more peaceful world to live in.
Second, not only do you benefit when you smile, but others that you smile at are happier as well. Doctor Alina Baciu, MD in general surgery and medicine and chief editor of Try Healthy, wrote an article entitled, “How can a smile make a difference?” Baciu states, “Smiling is contagious. The cingulated cortex is area of your brain where the act of smiling or mimicking a smile takes place. It is an area that operates by unconscious automatic response.” In other words, our smile makes others smile back giving them all the benefits that we experience when we smile. Dr. Baciu goes on to reveal a study that involved participants looking at faces portraying different emotions. The participants were asked to frown every time they saw a smiling face. The researches found that the participant’s first reaction was to smile and then would have to make a conscious effort to frown. This shows that smiles are infectious so that when we smile at others, others smile back. I have had the chance to serve our high school’s student body on student council this year. At the beginning of the school year, I made a goal to smile more to friends, acquaintances, and strangers at school and school events. I have found that when I smile, I almost always get a smile back. This has made me feel happier because I feel it is making others feel accepted and more a part of our school. I have seen what a strong powerful tool smiling is in changing the climate in just my high school let alone the world. Due to its contagious nature, if we could all smile more, happiness could be spread across the globe causing all the happy benefits that smiling creates.
Finally, a smile is universal sign of goodwill. It is the universal language that speaks to all people across the globe. It speaks love, friendship, warmth, and kindness. It is the one thing that can connect us instantly with a total stranger from anywhere in the world. No matter what our age, color, nationality, or language is, a smile can communicate goodwill. I had the opportunity to go to the Dominican Republic to do humanitarian work with a dental group called AYUDA. I was working on my Eagle project and collected 750 dental kits from donations I received from local dentists including Dr. Graf. I was able to take these kits to the D.R. and lead a team in the dental hygiene section and teach children and adults how to properly care for their teeth. I also was able to assist the dentists and doctors while they were working on filling cavities, extracting teeth, and putting in prosthetics that were made by one of our volunteer doctors. I loved it so much that I went back to serve two years later. I will always remember one patient in particular that we helped. It was a lady that had two front teeth that were decayed, very long with points on the ends, and pointed out in opposite directions overlapping her bottom lip even when her mouth was closed. When she came in, she didn’t smile and seemed very embarrassed by her smile as she kept her mouth closed and looked down at first. The dentists worked on her for a long time using prosthetics, crowns, etc., and were able make her teeth look beautiful. When they were done, we handed her a mirror. I will never forget the tears of joy that streamed down her face as she looked at her new smile in the mirror. She was beyond grateful and smiled so brightly. She now had the confidence to smile and bring joy to herself and others around her. She certainly rocked my world when her smile lit up the room. It was so inspiring to see how serving someone that couldn’t fix their smile on their own, changed their life for good and in return could change the lives of others. She spoke Spanish and I spoke English, but the connection I made with her will last a lifetime through the universal language of a smile.
In conclusion, something as simple as a smile can change the world due to the facts that smiling benefits ourselves, others we smile at, and the world at large due to its universal nature. I have seen how the power of a smile has affected my own life, and I will strive to help others find their smile in return, which due to my experiences in serving, now includes the possibilities of becoming a dentist or orthodontist to create that spread of happiness to others.
Can a Smile Change the World?
By Taylei Williams
To smile, according to the Oxford Dictionary, “is to form one's features into a pleased, kind, or amused expression, typically with the corners of the mouth turned up and the front teeth exposed.” Smiling is a common gesture among society and even more frequent in myself. Since I was a little girl, I have not been afraid to show off my smile. Anytime my mother and I look through our old photographs and scrapbooks, I am grinning from ear to ear showing every tooth. Beginning when I was that small, grinning, little girl, the power of smiling changed not only my world but also the world of those around me.
To start, I am a softball player and not just a girl that plays a little catch every spring. I have put blood, sweat, and tears into this game since I was eight years old. My softball career began when I played on a city-league team. I, being a talented athlete and the coach’s daughter, earned myself a spot as the pitcher. Since this was not a skill I had developed, one of my fondest and most painful memories of softball was in Lake Powell.
Family vacation on the dazzling blue water of Lake Powell was a time I looked forward to every year; but because my city-league tournament was right after our trip, the softball gear obviously made it on the boat. My competitive father was driven to win the title, so put nicely, I worked my guts out. We pitched everyday on the sand under the blazing sun which sizzled the sweat dripping down my forehead. As stated, I was not developed or a primed pitcher by any means, so my accuracy was extremely rough. In order to fix this, my dad forced me to throw ten pitches in a row perfectly to his mitt before I could finish pitching and jump in the refreshing lake. Seems pretty fair, but it was the most challenging thing I had ever done in my life. I would work for hours before I somehow magically managed to control my frustrated tears and sweaty palms to throw my ten pitches. Softball seemed like the worst sport in the world, and every day I dreaded the exhausting workout. Little did I know my narrow perspective was about to completely change.
The tournament came, and as my team won game by game, we found ourselves in the championship. The opposing, rival team had the biggest and finest softball players on their roster. Pitch by pitch I threw that game, doing everything in my power to hit the targeted mitt. Between every ball I hurled, I would whisper into my mitt, “I can do this.” After a tight, nail-biting game, my underdog team WON! The smile of utter pleasure my proud father gave me as he plucked me off the ground completely melted my heart. As we tightly embraced, I realized my love for softball and became greedy for the feeling I felt at the moment we won and my dad smiled at me. All the miserable hard work was completely forgotten when my satisfied father gave me such a token of happiness, a smile.
Since that special experience, softball has become my world. For the past ten years, I have played all year long on four different teams and learned so much along the way. This game has formed a marvelous relationship between my father and myself for which I couldn’t be more grateful. I have been blessed through incredible coaches and family support to continue my softball career at Southern Utah University. Additionally, this past year, I was honored to receive the Utah Softball Gatorade Player of the Year award. One smile, offered by my father literally changed the course of my life. Smiling has not only changed my world, but I have seen its effect in the lives of those around me. In my mother’s room, there is a decoration that reads “Smiles are free, don’t save them.” One goal I have set throughout my high school career is to smile and be friendly to my peers. This last fall I met an amazing special needs boy who has become an absolute favorite person for me to be around.
Around Halloween, I was walking through the crowded hall when I passed a cute boy with simple glasses and worn cowboy boots. I gave him a smile and friendly hello as we made eye contact. His eyes brightened as he started grinning. Within the next ten seconds, I discovered his name was Brody, he loved the Fast and Furious movie series, his favorite football team was the Green Bay Packers, and I was his girlfriend. I was a little taken aback, but I took a liking to this cheerful boy. Every day after that, he would not fail to find me in the hall and give me a giant hug and smile. We became friends, and I looked forward to talking daily with this humorous kid.
His sixteenth birthday was October 24, and I being his “girlfriend” asked him on a date for Halloween night. When I pulled into Brody’s driveway, he was pacing the porch waiting for my arrival. He hustled to the car grinning with so much excitement I couldn’t help but smile back. Needless to say, it was the most memorable date of my life. Brody knew every song title and the first and last name of every artist that played on the country radio station. Every time we got in the car he opened my door before letting himself in. When we ate at Costa Vida, it took him an hour to eat because he politely wiped his mouth with a different napkin between every bite. Brody eventually played my bowling turns because he didn’t have the patience to contain his joy in rolling the ball at the pins. Countless times he loudly yelled, “This is the BEST DATE EVER.”
I was so grateful I choose to give him a kind smile so I could experience being his friend. I also realized how much power was behind that simple smile. It had the power to change his world by building our friendship which led to his first date. I am positive that experience was a highlight in his life because he spent the next week entertaining the school with details about our date. I can only imagine how important it made him feel, because I felt incredible. I couldn’t stop smiling and laughing at Brody’s extraordinary personality. A kind smile, changed Brody’s and my world by creating a friendship that otherwise would have never happened.
As you can see, smiling has changed my world in many ways. It planted a seed leading to success and formed a relationship of a lifetime between a daddy and his little girl. A small grin also changed the world of my good friend, Brody. He has in no doubt changed my life, making it filled with magnificent smiles and amused laughter. For me, smiling has definitely lived up to its definition.
Thanks again Graf Orthodontics for giving me such beautiful teeth and encouraging my choice to smile regularly. In a way, the impeccable work you do gives people the opportunity to change theirs or someone else's world, one smile at a time.
Can a Smile Change the World?
By Lexi Reeves
Your smile changes a lot as you move through life. A crooked and patchy grin when you lose your first baby tooth. A shy and hopeful curve on the first day of 7th grade. A confident and glowing beam as you accept your diploma. A smile can show acceptance to a friend, love to a sibling, or kindness to a stranger. We smile at puppies and babies, jokes and memories. It’s what we do. But can a smile really change the world?
A year ago I might have said no. I love my smile and I wouldn’t change my braces experience for anything... but the change the world? The big world outside my little family and circle of friends? No, probably not. It wasn’t until something changed that I began to see a smile for what it truly is.
This school year I decided to join a club named Operation Smile. I didn’t know much about this particular club, but since I had already decided to join at least three service organization during my senior year, I gave it a go. My nonchalant attitude quickly changed after the first meeting. Mr. Vandik, a chemistry teacher who dedicates his free time to this club, started off by showing a video of children in 3rd world countries who suffer from severe cleft palates and cleft lips.The definition of a cleft palate is a “congenital split in the roof of the mouth.” But you don’t need to know the definition to tell that something is very wrong. These kids have obvious facial deformities- a large, open split connect the mouth to the nose and teeth twist out at odd angles. All of them struggle with speech, and the most severe cases require a feeding tube to avoid choking.
A baby born in a United States hospital has immediate access to the relatively easy surgery. But the children in these countries do not share these same health opportunities. Surgery is expensive, and most parents struggle to make ends meet anyway. Hundreds of kids around the world are left with no choice but to live with their cleft palate- suffering health complications, brutal rejection, and unfair embarrassment their entire lives. Their families desperately wishing for the $240, 45 minute operation that we would get in a heartbeat.
This video was extremely eye opening. I thought MY life was hard when I had an overbite! My heart began to break for these little kids and their families. But then I learned about Operation Smile and their purpose. As a Nationwide organization, Operation Smile raises 100,000 of dollars each year to provide safe cleft palate surgeries by experienced Doctors!
Mr Vandik then explained the schools annual “Miles for Smiles” fundraiser. For two months we would make hundreds of paper smiley faces, and assign each grade in the school a different color. Seniors = Red, Juniors = Yellow, Sophomores = Green, Faculty = Blue. Each smile was $1 and if you bought one you could write your name on it and hang it up in the hallway. I worked hard to raise all the money I possibly could. I asked friends, family members, and teachers. I bought smiley faces to support the cause. By the end of the fundraiser our hallways were covered in smiles. It really did seem like we’d covered miles for smiles. However, when I learned that we had raised enough money for only 10 surgeries I couldn’t help but think of the hundreds of children who still would suffer. It seemed to me that we hadn’t done very much to change the world...until Mr. Vandik showed us a documentary about a young boy’s personal experience with Operation Smile. The clip began by showing a huge group of people applying for a cleft palate surgery. Operation Smile can only provide as many surgeries as our donations will cover
. After applying, the families had to wait...and wait… and wait...hoping that their name would be called. Praying that their child would be blessed with the chance for a better life. After many hours the list was called out. The ones who were called wept tears of gladness alongside those who cried tears of rejection. One name on the list was that of little toddler, and his single mother could not believe they had actually done it. As the surgeons filled out a medical report the mother thanked them over and over again with tears streaming down her face. Watching this reaction made me do a complete 180. We HAD changed the world. This boy and his family would never forget the kindness shown to them. Their lives were changed! I decided then to focus on the lives of the 10 people we had blessed, and let the lives of the hundreds of others fuel me towards helping and raising more.
I’ve thought a lot about my smile experience since I joined Operation Smile. Although having braces a few times (yes, a few times) didn’t drastically change my health like receiving a cleft palate surgery, it did change my self confidence and self image. Growing up I really struggled with my speech. I was embarrassed every time I met someone new. I hated talking in front of groups or reading in front of class. All I could focus on was how my words did not sound like my friends words...and my overbite didn’t help my pronunciation or my self confidence. But by Doctor Grafs care and my hours at therapy, I eventually grew into a girl who loved to share her ideas and smile. Today I can confidently give presentations and I frequently volunteer in my classes. It’s easy to forget about the timid and awkward girl I used to be. But since I joined Operation Smile I have been extremely grateful my smile and how it has changed MY world! I am so lucky to grow up in a place where I could find treatment and help for my personal trails. I am going to continue working for Operation Smile so I can help others like me reach their full potential. I believe that smiles can change the world and I want to be a part of the change!