MAKING STRIDES IN DENTAL HEALTH AT JFK ELEMENTARY
For the last two years, JFK Elementary School – like the rest of the nation – has had to devote lots of effort to overcoming obstacles created by pandemic. Immigrants, people of color and low income members of this community were hard hit by job loss, exposure to the virus, childcare concerns, and unfamiliarity with virtual and hybrid learning. We know that these residents are the most likely to suffer from cavities and gum disease, two of the most common oral health problems in the United States. So it was especially important that we continue to vigorously implement our pre-k dental program.
Despite the challenges, JFK has been able to thrive! During the summer, many pre-k students participated in a learning program sponsored in part by UWCJ. Then, school reopened with masks, social distancing, and other hygienic measures in place. And, we recently learned that JFK has been named a Blue Ribbon Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing School!
The dental program has moved forward as well. Our plans for the new school year include: engaging a bilingual dental hygienist to provide virtual dental health lessons, such as “how to brush tiny teeth.” We will continue to emphasize good nutrition as a major factor in good dental health, and we are working with community food pantries to make sure that all families have access to healthy food. We also will solidify our plan to infuse dental learning into the pre-k curriculum. We will use some of our grant to purchase dental books, toys and supplies for the eight pre-k classrooms. These supplies will be incorporated into the existing science dramatic play areas, so that they can be used by successive classes of pre-k students.
Teaching dental health should be fun, so we plan to supply the classrooms with items such as giant toothbrushes, dental diagnostic tools, flossasaurus teaching puppets and dentist dress up clothes, in addition to toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss and water bottles. Dental futures are looking bright for the youngest students at JFK Elementary!
About the Grantee
United Way of Central Jersey's leadership brings together resources for local disadvantaged families to ensure that all young children in our community attain better educational outcomes and a healthier, brighter and more successful future. We accomplish our mission in collaboration with our partners, volunteers, and the generosity of our donors.