The Latin American Educational Foundation (LAEF) recently awarded five scholarships to San Luis Valley students considering oral health careers in Colorado. LAEF received a three-year, $225,000 grant from the Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation in support of its commitment to oral health equity, addressing workforce shortages, and diversifying the oral health profession.
The 2023-24 LAEF/Delta Dental scholars are Ahlisia Gallegos of La Jara, JaeLea Maestas and Mariana Loya of San Luis, and Mckenzie Tolliver and Yahiy Quintana of Center.
LAEF was founded in 1949 and has a long history of providing scholarships to students across Colorado, including the San Luis Valley. LAEF will award scholarships based on a student’s desire to enter the oral health field in any capacity and will also help advise students on career pathways. The foundation recently hired an Alamosa-based staff member to identify eligible scholars and coordinate services for local students.
“We know we’re years away from seeing the impact of these scholarships on our communities,” said Lia Carpio, LAEF’s valley program services coordinator. “The Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation is focusing on root-cause solutions over the long-term, and we’re all hopeful supporting students in this way now will lead to more valley providers in the future.”
The oral health profession is struggling to meet the needs of Colorado’s growing population, particularly in rural areas such as the San Luis Valley. According to the Rural Health Information Hub, all six valley counties are in Dental Care Health Professional Shortage Areas, meaning there are not enough providers to meet the need.
LAEF is hosting a scholar and counselor breakfast on Monday, Sept. 18, from 8-9 a.m. at the CASA Center at Adams State University. Local students and high school counselors are invited to stop by for breakfast and to learn more about the new LAEF scholarship opportunities opening in January.
LAEF also is partnering with the Boys & Girls Clubs of the San Luis Valley on its oral health career day, tentatively scheduled for November. Students will be able to get more information about oral health career pathways and participate in a hands-on dental experience, including casting tooth molds.