Jennifer Crusco
Communications Assistant

Educator & Students Ready for Operation Smile Mission Trips

Demarest, NJ:A teacher and a trio of students from the Academy of the Holy Angels will soon be trekking across the globe to participate in Operation Smile mission trips. Italian language teacher/AHA Operation Smile Club Moderator Laura Kraytem will travel to Bangalore, India; senior Melina Tidwell Torres of North Arlington will work in Zunyi, Guizhou, China; junior Sarah McGowan of Rutherford will journey to Linixia, Ganseau, China; and junior Gabriella Boccia of Hasbrouck Heights will visit Lima, Peru.

Each traveler will support Operation Smile’s goal to provide no-cost surgeries to correct cleft lip and cleft palate.

Kraytem and the three AHA students recently completed mission training in North Fork, Virginia. When the students arrive at their respective destinations, each will use her training to make approximately 100 health and hygiene presentations. The young women will also interact with patients, observe surgeries, and help organize medical records.

Kraytem will be supervising three volunteers who hail from Colorado and South Carolina.

“All of the students have learned health modules on nutrition, and researched their locations to find out what local foods are rich in protein and other nutrients. They also learn about handwashing, burn and wound care, dental hygiene, and CPR,” Kraytem said.
Before their mission work begins, the student volunteers in each location enjoy a team day at a local site, such as a museum or a beach.

“Only 50 percent of the volunteers who apply receive missions,” Kraytem said, noting how difficult it is to be chosen.

“This will be my sixth mission,” Kraytem noted. “I have traveled to Aaman, Jordan; Lilongwe, Malawi; Cebu City, Philipines; Quang Ngai, Vietnam; and Puebla, Mexico. This is the first time I will be going to Bangalore.”

She explained that Operation Smile volunteers do not have the option to choose their team members or locations. Students do not travel with others from their schools, and are not chaperoned by teachers from their own schools. Kraytem noted that Operation Smile’s staff members want the volunteers to grow and enjoy unique experiences through their work on the mission trips.

Operation Smile is a non-profit organization that was founded by AHA alumna Kathleen McGee and her husband, Dr. William McGee.

Founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1879, the Academy of the Holy Angels is the oldest private girls’ school in Bergen County. While AHA is steeped in Catholic tradition, this prestigious high school serves young women from a broad spectrum of cultural and religious backgrounds. Over time, thousands of women have passed through AHA’s portals. Many go on to study at some of the nation’s best universities, earning high-ranking positions in medicine, government, law, education, public service, business, arts, and athletics. The Academy’s current leaders continue to further the SSND mission to provide each student with the tools she needs to reach the fullness of her potential—spiritually, intellectually, socially, and physically, by offering a first-rate education in a nurturing environment where equal importance is placed on academic excellence, character development, moral integrity, and service to others.


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