Partnership increases the life of masks

Partnership increases the life of masks

Delta Dental of Michigan linked arms with its longtime partners, Michigan State University Extension, the MSU College of Engineering and Sparrow Hospital, by providing $25,000 to support a decontamination process that allows M95 respirators to be reused.

The dry heat decontamination process can be replicated in most commercial ovens, allowing masks to be disinfected up to 20 times.

“The MSU Extension team went from concept to testing this system in less than five days,” says Jeff Dwyer, MSU Extension director. “If it weren’t for the valuable partnership with Sparrow and funders like Delta Dental, we wouldn’t be able to keep this going.”

This summer, the project team is awaiting emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the team has been fielding inquires about the project from food processing companies throughout North America and Europe.

Delta Dental, Sparrow Health, and Michigan State University Exertion Logos on black background.
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Girl Scouts Earn Smile Squad in Zoom

Scouting goes virtual

Scouting goes virtual

Girl Scouts got resourceful when the pandemic hit, and they’re earning their Smile Squad patches virtually.

The Delta Dental Foundation’s Smile Squad Patch Program encourages girls to use their creativity and scouting skills to learn how the mouth links to overall health and well-being. They review good dental habits, try an oral health experiment, discover how hidden sugars can damage teeth, and learn about the importance of brushing twice a day and reading every day for a healthy body and mind.

Now they’re doing all this without leaving the safety of their homes.

“They made posters, tracked their sugary drinks with points, and they taught a family member how to brush their teeth,” says Grace Rudolph, leader of Brownie Troop 8156 in Byron Center, Michigan.

Janna Skwirsk, leader of Brownie Troop 77176 in Warren, Michigan, said her troop members were happy for the activities to keep learning and growing.

During this pandemic, as everyone struggles to live differently through social distancing, programs like Delta Dental Foundation’s Smile Squad Patch Program provided materials and guidance for our troop to learn and grow collaboratively

—Janna Skwirsk

Girl Scouts Earn Smile Squad in Zoom

Learn about more opportunities for your Girl Scout Troop:

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The perfect fit: Akron grad finds passion within industry hungry for skilled workers

The perfect fit: Akron grad finds passion within industry hungry for skilled workers

The day of Corey Pettit’s backyard graduation party it rained on and off. But the northern Ohio spring drizzle never dampened the celebration.

The mood was one of joy and success. Sweet success. Eighteen-year-old Corey was graduating from Akron Public Schools and was excited to be done.

Surrounded by 200 family members, friends and mentors, Corey was celebrating with the people who helped him accomplish his goals, and one goal that he checked off his list was finding employment immediately following high school.

“I never wanted to attend college. I did not want any more time sitting in a classroom,” Corey says. With three older sisters who pursued post-secondary degrees, still paying off student debt, Corey knew that wasn’t in his future.

Thanks to Akron Public Schools Online, he was able to follow his own path and take general classes remotely during high school, working on credits at his own pace.

Corey’s teachers and counselor supported the decision to transition online, thinking it would be a good way for Corey to work under a flexible schedule, but still meet weekly with a mentor, and find an elective class outside of his general credits that would set him up for success after graduation.

That’s when he was first introduced to machine shop.

Photo: Corey Pettit poses for a picture at graduation with his kindergarten teacher, Ranay Hatherill.

I never wanted to attend college. I did not want any more time sitting in a classroom.


His mom, Bonnie, was initially surprised by his choice—he didn’t have much experience, and she wondered if his disdain for math would allow him to enjoy or succeed in the trade.

Corey showed little interest in classes that didn’t have a practical application to the real world. He didn’t see the purpose of learning Spanish if he never wanted to travel abroad, and he didn’t understand why advanced level math classes were critical to his success later in life.

But there was a shift in Corey’s mentality as soon as he started taking machine shop.

“He pulled all A’s in that class,” Bonnie recalls. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is making sense to him.’”

During Corey’s senior year he went to school every weekday from 12:45 to 3:15 p.m. for machine shop. He wanted to be a machinist, and this was the most effective, straightforward way to learn the skills. He used milling machines, grinders and other tools to produce precision metal parts. He had to calculate where to make cuts and understand how to select the right tools for each job, plan the sequence of operations, and that involved trigonometry.

But he loved it.

Not everyone is cut out for college. I was able to get on-the-job training and collect a paycheck. It was a lot of hard work, but I had the support from my teachers, counselor, my parents and family.


He loved seeing the end product, and he loved seeing math come together for a logical purpose. He finished his high school credits early, passed his certification test and quickly found a job at a local machine shop, Signature Mold and Fabrication in Akron.

He textures molds and pours molds, does yard work every so often and straightens up around the shop.
Working 40 hours a week just a few miles from home, Corey’s making a living wage—enough to put some cash in the bank, to pay his car insurance and his cell phone bill.

This year, he’ll be eligible for paid time off and benefits.

“I really like my job, Corey says. “I’ve always wanted to do something with my hands, to work hard and be successful.”

But aside from finding a job he enjoys, Corey is also helping fill the workforce gap.

Corey seeking a career in a skilled trade is a success story. He’s a shining example of the kind of employee many northeast Ohio employers are looking for. The workforce and talent misalignment is a problem that Delta Dental and Team NEO have committed to help solve.

According to regional data, about 80,000 manufacturing workers ages 55 and older are planning to leave the labor market, and the attraction of skilled workers is the No. 1 challenge hampering industry growth.
With a demand for more than 21,000 jobs just last year, manufacturing is facing a critical shortage of workers.

Which explains why Corey’s boss, Rick, is so thrilled to have him on payroll.

He’s never had a worker as young as Corey before, but he has been willing to work with him and teach him the skills he needs to do well.

“Not everyone is cut out for college,” Corey says. “I was able to get on-the-job training and collect a paycheck. It was a lot of hard work, but I had the support from my teachers, counselor, my parents and family.”

Tony Allen feature

Promise made; promises kept

Promise made; promises kept

Delta Dental contributed $22,500 to the Lansing Promise in 2018 to open the doors of opportunity to youth and develop a smart, capable local talent pipeline in mid-Michigan.

The scholarship program provided tuition assistance for postsecondary (college or skilled trade) education to nearly 1,000 eligible high school graduates in the Lansing School District. The expectation is that an investment in high-potential youth will transform the community.

“The Lansing Promise starts with a scholarship, removing financial and emotional barriers to success after high school,” says Justin Sheehan, executive director of the Lansing Promise. “But the promise is also about community and opportunity. We want to see change in our lifetimes, and thanks to the investment of Delta Dental, we will.”

Tina Nguyen and Tony Allen are two Lansing Promise scholars who exemplify the hope and possibilities among youth in Lansing. Their grit, tenacity, creativity, optimism and commitment to the region represent an intangible but powerful return on Delta Dental’s investment.

Here are their stories

Dr. Jordan Allen

The right find

The right find

Establishing roots in a high-needs area

As a high-schooler in Pocatello, Idaho, Jordan Allen planned to enter the family business. But after a few months working at his dad’s car dealership, he realized he needed a different career.

Fast forward seven years to Marietta, Ohio, and now Dr. Allen is right where he wants to be.

Every day, he relieves pain, improves health, builds confidence—all while working with colleagues he describes as “wonderful—just the greatest people.”

Dr. Allen graduated from The Ohio State University College of Dentistry in May 2018 and immediately moved to Marietta to work for Family Tree Dental, with two locations in Marietta and an office just across the West Virginia border.

Marietta is an active city, population 14,000, with loads of community spirit, cute shops, and scenery for days since it’s located at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum rivers. But it’s also considered a high-needs dental treatment area, and one of the Family Tree Dental offices is the only dental office within a two-hour drive to accept Medicaid.

I feel really fortunate to be part of this group. Our motto is ‘comfortable, convenient and kind,’ and everybody here lives it. We take wonderful care of people.

—Dr. Jordan Allen

Dr. Jordan Allen

As a senior at Ohio State, Dr. Allen received the Delta Dental Foundation’s Community Commitment Award for $25,000 to practice for one year in a high-needs area.

He and his wife, Britton, had already planned to move to Marietta when he received the award, but they considered it as affirmation that they were making the right decision. The $25,000 helped with the move and immediate financial needs for the young family expecting a baby.

“We love it here,” Dr. Allen says. “The people are wonderful. The other doctors are just fantastic people. We feel very fortunate.”

And providing dental care to low-income patients is a priority for him.

“It’s a service we’re able to provide for the community, and it’s a huge need,” he says. “People drive hours and hours to see us. It’s nice to be able to give back a little bit. At this office in particular, we do a lot of extractions, and we do a lot
of dentures.

“There have been a few cases where people have come in, and they haven’t had teeth or dentures for decades. When you first meet them, their faces are a little sunken in because they don’t have teeth to support things.

“When you deliver their dentures to them, it changes everything. Their faces light up when they get to see they have teeth again. And fairly regularly we get to do that for people. It’s super rewarding.”

As his required year at Family Tree Dental wraps up, Dr. Allen is staying put. His family bought a house in Marietta, and he’s buying into the dental practice.

“I feel really fortunate to be part of this group,” he says. “Our motto is ‘comfortable, convenient and kind,’ and everybody here lives it. We take wonderful care of people.”

In Ohio, the tourism slogan is “Find it here.” For this Idaho kid turned Ohio dentist, practicing in Marietta was the absolute right find for him.

Tina's Story

Tina's story

Tina Nguyen appreciates struggle, diversity, animals, opportunity and Lansing.

“I love Lansing,” she says. “I love the seasons, the small towns, but most of all, I love the people. I grew up in a diverse community, and that is something that I will always love about what this city has done for me.”

The 20-year-old Lansing Community College student, who runs her own business called Tinalooa Photography, has documented it all through the lens of her 35mm camera.

A self-described “goof” whose parents are immigrants from Vietnam, Tina is dedicated to building community and increasing opportunity in mid-Michigan. The tuition support from the Lansing Promise enables her to focus on her studies and her business.

Listen to a message from Tina:

“Entrepreneurship is what I’m all about,” she says. “Starting something from scratch, bringing an idea to life. My business is all about my passion for the community.”

A big lesson for Tina is the power of failure. She seeks to normalize it and teach others how to navigate and use failure to their advantage.

“I think if we see it as just part of progress, we can go through it fearlessly,” Tina says. “People listened to me, cared about me, invested in me. I want to be there for others and show them the way to connect to the resources that are everywhere.”

Learn more or support Tina’s photography business at:
Photo: Photographer Tina Nguyen poses for a self-portrait with her dog, Kanga.

I love Lansing. I love the seasons, the small towns, but most of all, I love the people. I grew up in a diverse community, and that is something that I will always love about what this city has done for me.

—Tina Nguyen, Lansing Promise scholar

Tony Allen

Tony's Story

Tony's Story

When Tony Allen thinks about Lansing’s future, he thinks about unity, growth, change and prosperity—and he sees himself in the center of it all.

“I don’t believe I have to leave this city to find opportunity; there’s no instant gain in doing that,” says Tony, a 21-year-old Lansing Community College student. “I’m going to stay and build it—I’m going to create jobs.”

He’s off to a great start. Tony and two of his Eastern High School friends and fellow Lansing Promise scholars started a small clothing company called LNSNG (Lansing without vowels) in 2017. It is designed to inspire a cool local vibe and enhance local pride.

The Lansing Promise allows him to balance his life and focus on his dreams.

Listen to a message from Tony:

I don’t believe I have to leave this city to find opportunity; there’s no gain in doing that.

—Tony Allen, Lansing Promise scholar

“Without the burden of tuition, I don’t have to work seven days a week,” Tony says. “I can focus on my homework and on building our company.”

All profits from LNSNG go back into the company or the community. The company works with local musicians and local artists, many of whom graduated from high school with Tony and his friends. They have produced designs to help fundraise for local causes, including scholarships.

The young entrepreneurs are saving to buy a $2,500 printer to step up production and quality of their apparel.

“I pride myself in my ability to get stuff done,” Tony says. “My advice to others: try things; get help when you need it; talk the right way and put yourself out there.”

Find out more about Tony’s company and how to support it:
Tony Allen portrait
Photo: Tony Allen is happy to call Lansing home. Photo by fellow Lansing Promise scholar Tina Nguyen.