Bridging the Gaps: Southwest Community Development Corporation

Sejal V. Menghani

Menghani, Sejal V.1
Faculty / Advisor: Gluch, Joan I.1
Advisor/Community Preceptor: Thomas, Lorraine2
1University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, Department of Preventive and Restorative Sciences, Division of Community Oral Health
2Southwest Community Development Corporation


The Southwest Community Development Corporation (SWCDC) is a community-oriented nonprofit organization in Southwest Philadelphia. Since 1987, the Southwest CDC has worked to improve the quality of life of the residents and to provide support to the community. It serves more than 75,000 residents through implementation and execution of programming focused on financial assistance, community outreach, ESL classes, job searching, publishing a weekly blog to spread positive news, and more.

Project Overview

Every summer, the SWCDC plans and organizes a free six-week summer camp for students in kindergarten through fifth grade at the John M. Patterson Elementary School. The day camp traditionally provides recreational and educational activities in addition to weekly field trips to local Philadelphia establishments. This summer, the summer camp was conducted virtually. My BTG team of 5 student interns was tasked with designing and executing an interactive curriculum to promote educational exploration and a healthy lifestyle among the students of varying ages. My personal goal was to increase the students’ enthusiasm about oral hygiene by presenting it in a fun yet informative way.


Recognizing that the students are spending their formative years in a currently uncertain world, we aimed to create an open, enjoyable space for support and mentorship, with the intention of enhancing basic foundational knowledge during the lessons. The students responded well to the oral hygiene presentation, which included an interactive brushing and flossing demonstration as well as a science experiment. Tooth decay remains one of the most prevalent chronic illnesses in the US, and disproportionately affects low-income populations of all ages. It is crucial to provide children with access to dental care and education, as it can have such a great impact on their overall health and quality of life. COVID-19 has made oral health disparities even more apparent, and this is a concern for all current and future dental providers.