By Thomas Cottingham
St. Bonaventure University will take precedent next semester becoming one of the first schools in the nation to implement an on-campus chapter of Healthy O.N. (Oral Health and Nutrition), a nonprofit organization run predominantly by college students.
Jason Liao, a history and pre-dental studies double major, plans to start the new chapter.
Healthy O.N. promotes oral health, hygiene and nutrition awareness through direct teaching and advising. Its mission is to bridge the gap between oral health and the general well-being of an individual. According to the website, dental health and medicine in general falls under one umbrella.
“We think that the best way to bridge this gap is to teach children the importance of oral health, hygiene and nutrition,” said Liao.
So far, Healthy O.N. has established chapters at Rutgers University – New Brunswick and University of Pennsylvania. St. Bonaventure graduate, Sang Woo Kang, ’16, founded the nonprofit.
According to Liao, it all started at St. Bonaventure for Kang.
“He believes that his Franciscan education at St. Bonaventure opened his eyes to public health issues, especially in rural communities like Olean and Allegany,” said Liao.
“These issues could be easily eradicated with the power of education and the passion to serve those in need.”
The headquarters of the nonprofit is not concrete because the organization is run by college students on each campus. Each headquarters has a branch of legal and finance, technology and marketing, education and outreach teams. These university chapters link with local elementary schools to educate the youth about the importance of oral health, nutrition and hygiene.
“We do progress reports as well,” said Liao. “The schools follow up with the kids to see if they kept with it and made it into a habit.”
In March, Liao ran an outreach event in the Reilly Center for Healthy O.N. A crowd of about 40 students showed up, which made the chapter here more of a possibility.
“Students took time out of their schedule to listen to our pitch about Health O.N.” said Liao.
Currently, Liao is sitting down with determined students who wish to serve as leaders.
“We’re making this a careful and thought-out process because we want to find the right people for starting a chapter,” Liao said.
The young organization is heading for high hopes.
“Sang Woo and the rest of the team at Healthy O.N. have been working hard since last August. [By] planning and connecting students at different universities, we see ourselves as part of a movement. Our goal is to establish a chapter at SBU because Cattaraugus County needs it,” Liao said.