Sonia Canseco is no ordinary teen. She’s already changing the world.

At just 18 years old, Canseco has already learned what it takes to survive hard times and the peer pressure of gangs. Now she puts that experience into action by supporting other kids, even though they live thousands of miles and oceans away. Even though they’re strangers.

“Sonia works really hard, and always gets the job done. She is so brave and strong to overcome adversity… She truly is a lovely girl,” says Parkrose High School’s Laura Farrell.

Thanks to support from her teacher, Canseco turned her senior project job shadow into collaboration with an area dentist and school administrators.

Canseco says, “I’ve always known I want to go into a career where I can help people. This was an awesome opportunity to get started!”

After a handful of refusals from local hospitals and daycares, Canseco’s ELL teacher and project supervisor, Michele Gibson, suggested Great Shape! Inc. The focus: 1000 Smiles dental project. 1000 Smiles provides education and dental care for free in Jamaica.

Gibson is the daughter of Great Shape! Inc.’s co-founder. Gibson was raised with the philosophy of ‘One Love,’ and became a teacher to pass it on. She tragically and unexpectedly died on June 18, 2009 from a pulmonary embolism. “Sonia and Michele had a very special relationship,” colleague Laura Farrell continues, “her presence will be dearly missed, but her legacy will live on through the inspiration she instilled in Sonia and the rest of her students.”

Canseco shadowed Dr. Lenore D. Supnet at Mountainside General Dentistry. Throughout her 20-hour commitment, Canseco gained insight into the world of dental care and sought donations of toothbrushes and paste for the 1000 Smiles project. In the end, Canseco wasn’t satisfied with the number of donations. This led to her partnership with Laura Farrell, a secretary at Canseco’s Parkrose High School. Together they gathered more than 600 toothbrushes and other dental products.

Canseco graduated in June of this year. Her eagerness to help others and display the spirit of ‘One Love’ fuels her ambition to become a nurse. This fall she will attend Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, OR. Someday, Canseco hopes to travel to Jamaica to meet the kids she served in person.

“These kids really need the help… I’m proud that I was able to do something for them,”
– Sonia Canseco

Great Shape! Inc. facilitates 1000 Smiles, the world’s largest, international, humanitarian dental project. In rural Jamaica, there is only one dentist for every 80,000 people! Canseco’s donation will serve 640 people. Great Shape’s Executive Director, Joseph Wright is impressed, “She is an amazing young woman. We couldn’t serve the 25,000 Jamaicans we partner with each year, without donors like Sonia. As they say in Jamaica, Big Up Sonia!”

Great Shape! also facilitates a literacy program called SuperKids and a vision project called I Care. You can join Canseco’s efforts, volunteer, or donate on your own. Visit for more information!