At the University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, a new community outreach endeavor called Pacific Pays it Forward was launched by student leaders involved with the American Student Dental Association (ASDA) Pacific Chapter. Throughout the school year, Pacific Pays it Forward will offer opportunities for students, staff, and faculty to reach out to members of the San Francisco Bay Area through various philanthropic activities. The concept is simple. "We create opportunities for members of the Dugoni School of Dentistry to volunteer within the community," remarks Pacific Pays it Forward co-founder and second-year student Daniel Hammer. "By participating in these opportunities, we hope to ignite a passion for service in both the provider and recipient."
Over half of the student body has been involved with the program during its first three months of operation. Created in fall 2009, the mission of the program focuses on the notion that one person helping another will encourage others to follow the same lead. It strives to enhance the school's tradition of service.
Since its start, Pacific Pays it Forward has held one event a month. The first event, in October, was the creation of a Fall Fair for Up on Top, an after-school program in San Francisco. Over 50 children were in attendance, and several students assisted with planning.
The Thanksgiving Food Drive and Penny Wars event in November was a stunning success. "By the end of the fundraising, we rose over $1,600 and collected over 500 cans," said Mr. Hammer. "Due to corporate matching, our final contribution was over $10,000 to buy food for the holiday season."
Mr. Hammer says the idea for the program came about as he and fellow ASDA colleagues began goal setting and event planning for the upcoming school year. "We are very lucky at Pacific to have numerous service groups that provide dental-oriented service. However, there were few groups that organized large-scale, non-dentally focused service. This is where we wanted to focus our energy," he says. "Our [ASDA] chapter goal for the year was to create new, innovative programs and events to benefit the student body and community. Pacific Pays it Forward was the perfect program to help complete this goal. The opportunities we are offering students to volunteer could ignite a lifelong passion for service, or their kind act simply encourages the recipients to do the same for others."
A believer that a small group of passionate people can achieve great things, Mr. Hammer has had a passion for leadership and service since childhood. "The encouragement from our faculty and administration enables students to complete things we may think are impossible," he says. "Creativity and innovation are encouraged." Mr. Hammer was his class's ASDA representative in his first year and is now the chapter President. He received the Dr. Thomas R. Bales Family Endowment Good Samaritan Award in January, awarded to a second-year Pacific student who demonstrates exemplary kindness to fellow classmates.
"The ability for an educator to impact future generations is unparalleled," remarks Mr. Hammer. "Currently, I am attending dental school on a U.S. Navy scholarship, and look forward to working for the Navy following graduation. Beyond that, I plan on staying involved with organized dentistry and being involved with dental education."
Community response to Pacific Pays it Forward has been positive. Up on Top has already requested a Spring Fair this year, and the San Francisco Food Bank was extremely grateful for the donations the program made during the holidays. "However, I think the greatest benefit of the program is felt by the volunteer students," commented Mr. Hammer. "Students consistently say that they miss doing this type of service and that they forgot how easy it is to do." The program has a full schedule for the remainder of the year with plans for card making for the children's hospital, visiting the local Veterans Affairs hospital in San Francisco, tree planting for Earth Day, and a volunteer recognition dinner to conclude the academic year.
For more information on Pacific Pays it Forward, Mr. Hammer can be contacted through Pacific's ADSA chapter or through their faculty advisor, Dr. Eddie K. Hayashida.