Maria Summers '10 (center) has been involved with
Operation Smile for several years.
Maria Summers ’10 has a lot to smile about. On the cusp of graduating from
Randolph-Macon College, she can look back on four years in Ashland that included
many academic and personal highlights. Summers, who hails from Powhatan, Virginia,
is a chemistry major who holds a minor in
biology. She has been an active member of many R-MC organizations, including the
Student Government Association (SGA), the Pre-Health Society and Macon Outdoors.
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As a member of R-MC’s Intervarsity Christian Fellowship organization, Summers served
as an outreach coordinator. “I helped plan charity events and I helped to lead the
Women’s Small Group—a group that met once a week to study the Bible and to encourage
one another through prayer and discussion,” she says. The Women’s Small Group also
assembled gift boxes for Operation Christmas Child, an organization that collects
holiday gifts for children in third-world countries.
Summers served for several years as secretary of the Resident Hall Association (RHA),
an organization that was integral in implementing important changes around campus.
This included the addition of picnic tables and grills in the freshmen village courtyard,
repainting and lighting the campus call boxes, and, most importantly to Summers,
the addition of cameras around campus. “After the Virginia Tech shootings, I looked
into the possibility of adding cameras around campus to be used in the event that
something happened on our campus,” she says. “I am happy to say that there are now
a several cameras on campus.”
Of all the activities Summers has been involved in while a student at R-MC, there
is one that is perhaps closest to her heart. “Operation Smile is an organization
that provides cleft lip, cleft palate, burn scar repair and tumor removal surgeries,”
she explains. “I became involved with Operation Smile because I was born with a
bilateral cleft lip and palate, which I was able to have repaired. Many children
around the world do not have the opportunity to have this surgery and are then shunned
by their communities and families.”
In summer 2008, Summers traveled with Operation Smile to Agadir, Morocco and served
as their Patient Imaging Technician. “My role was to document, through photographs,
the patients who came through the doors,” she says. “For each patient, I took pictures
before, during and after surgery; the photos were then used by the doctors to see
which surgical techniques minimized scarring and provided the best results for the
patients.” Remarkably, the team was able to provide surgery to 162 patients during
“It was awesome to see that many new smiles, but it was also sad to think of all
the others we had turned away due to time and financial restrictions,” says Summers.
Once back in the States, she began to look for ways to help raise money for Operation
Smile so that more children and young adults could have this life-changing surgery.
With the help of Alpha Phi Omega, the Panhellenic Council and the bookstore staff,
Randolph-Macon College raised about $1450—enough money to pay for six surgeries.
“We have also donated items for the Smile Bags that each patient receives after
surgery. These bags contain items such as toys, hygiene items and mirrors,” explains
Summers. “It is so awesome to see children look into that mirror for the first time
and see huge smiles light up their faces because they know their lives are going
to be so much better. I am so thankful to the students, faculty and staff that have
helped me raise money and awareness for this organization.”
Summers has also been a volunteer at the St. James the Less Free Clinic for the
past year. “The clinic provides free medical, dental and eye care to Hanover residents,”
says Summers, who assists by determining the eligibility status of each patient.
“I have also worked as a dental assistant and have shadowed the doctor. I would
recommend getting involved with something like this to anyone interested in the
medical field, as it provides you with lots of hands-on experience.”
Summers is excited about what the future may hold. “I am waiting to hear back from
a Physician's Assistant program at Eastern Virginia Medical School,” she says of
her post-R-MC plans. “The program starts in January 2011, so I'm hoping to hear
That, indeed, is something to smile about.
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