Jennifer Crusco
Communications Assistant

Students Take Roman Holiday for Operation Smile

Demarest, NJ: Four students from the Academy of the Holy Angels recently attended training in Rome, Italy, in preparation for mission trips with Operation Smile. Those students included Angelina Scozzafava of Maywood, Cassandra Keith Garcia of New Milford, Samantha Danylchuk of Mahwah, and Melina Tidwell Torres of North Arlington. 

Scozzafava subsequently traveled to Malawi, where she provide health and nutrition information to families of patients who were about to receive corrective surgeries for cleft lip and cleft palate. Garcia will be traveling to Ghana to complete her mission experience. 

AHA juniors Torres and Danylchuk were in Rome for the Operation Smile International Student Leadership Conference. This conference is the first of three steps that will allow Danylchuk and Torres to ultimately participate in a mission trip. 

“The conference in Rome included over 500 students from around the world and keynote speakers who have impacted our world,” said Laura Kraytem, who leads AHA’s Operation Smile club. “Operation Smile's student programs mission is aligned with the School Sisters of Notre Dame’s mission: Change is made through the transformation of persons. Operation Smile creates leaders who will someday change the world for the better.” 

Operation Smile Co-Founder Kathleen Magee, an AHA alumna, helped established this non-profit, non-governmental organization in 1982 to help provide life-altering cleft palate and cleft lip correction surgeries to children throughout the world.

Torres and Danylchuk met Operation Smile’s co-founders and members of the club from all over the world. 

“Over the course of the week-long conference, we broke out into smaller regional groups in order to come up with ideas on how to spread awareness and raise money for the surgeries and supplies that make up the Operation Smile program. ISLC was a great experience and we hope to apply what we learned to the AHA community to upcoming school year!” Torres said.

Guest speakers at the conference shared their personal experiences with the program and ideas for raising funds and awareness. The AHA juniors are now working on creative fundraisers to get the school community involved and educate people about how difficult and expensive it can be to have surgery in developing countries. 

Founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1879, the Academy of the Holy Angels is the oldest private girls’ school in New Jersey. 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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