Quinn McElroy-Fuchs to study nursing at University of Portland after winning Future Leaders scholarship.

COURTESY PHOTO: QUINN FUCHS - Quinn McElroy-Fuchs distributes free dental care kits to young children as part of a Girl Scouts project she called Operation Tooth Fairy.Compassion is in 18-year-old Quinn McElroy-Fuchs' blood.

The Portland teen, who established Operation Tooth Fairy to provide dental kits to young kids in need, will continue on her path of helping others. McElroy-Fuchs is set to enter a nursing program at the University of Portland, thanks in part to a $5,000 Future Leaders scholarship from Freestone Capital Management.

McElroy-Fuchs grew up in Southwest Portland's Bridlemile neighborhood and graduated earlier this year from Lincoln High School.

She made news in 2018 when she started Operation Tooth Fairy as a service project while in the Girl Scouts. Through her efforts, she distributed roughly 1,400 basic dental care kits to families of children newborn to 5 years old. McElroy-Fuchs said she was compelled to focus on children's dental health for her Girl Scouts Gold Award Project after a visit to a Portland school.

"I was shadowing at a local low-income elementary school," she said. "When I was playing with a kindergartener, her four front teeth were already missing. Severe decay like that can affect her grown-up teeth. The teacher said it's really common for kids to come in already missing teeth."

McElroy-Fuchs said she soon realized many preschool-age children go without routine dental checkups and aren't taught about the importance of daily oral hygiene, leading to early dental disease. She wanted to fix that.

She reached out to local dentists for donations and partnered with food pantries and social service program providers like WIC, also known as the federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.

The project even led McElroy-Fuchs to consider a future in dentistry, but a visit to see her dad in the hospital changed that. "I've always known I was interested in the medical field. My dad had surgery my junior year, and I was talking to the nurses there and talking about what they do."

Her interest in a health care profession was buffered during a visit to the University of Washington, where McElroy-Fuchs learned how to take blood, and during a different school outing for a biology class, where she visited a lab with cadavers and even held a human heart.

McElroy-Fuchs called nursing "the perfect marriage of two things I really wanted to do."

While the exact path of her future remains to be seen, one thing seems clear. McElroy-Fuchs is hardwired to help. A nearly lifelong Girl Scout, the college student is no stranger to service projects, and says she has a special place in her heart for helping children and those most vulnerable. McElroy-Fuchs said she's considering focusing on pediatrics.

With Operation Tooth Fairy behind her and a future in health care on the horizon, McElroy-Fuchs is enjoying her summer job working at a doggie day care facility.

"I've always done service," she said. "I've done Girl Scouts since kindergarten and both of my brothers did Boy Scouts. I get so much from this place and this city, so it's just kind of natural to give back."

As McElroy-Fuchs started narrowing down colleges, she ultimately decided to stick to the city she calls home.

The University of Portland was ranked No. 6 in the west by Nursing Schools Almanac, using a ranking system that takes into account a school's prestige and perceived value, breadth of program offerings, and student exam success and outcomes. Health care programs are among the most popular offerings there.

The university is a private college, making it more costly than some other schools in the region. McElroy-Fuchs got a helping hand a few months ago when she found out she'd been selected for a Freestone Capital Management scholarship she applied for, in addition to another $5,000 from the Girl Scouts and a smaller STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) scholarship from the Lincoln High School Alumni Association.

Erik Morgan, a senior partner at Freestone Capital Management, said the Future Leaders scholarship winners stood out for "demonstrating great ambition, a commitment to improving their communities and an entrepreneurial spirit."

"Quinn's drive to succeed and proven track record for helping her community though Operation Tooth Fairy and her other extracurricular activities made her an outstanding candidate," Morgan said. "We are proud to support her future goals with this scholarship and look forward to seeing where her journey in higher education takes her."

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