Cook Wins Outstanding Capstone Project Award

Cook Wins Outstanding Capstone Project Award

Holly Vincent
Saturday, May 5, 2018 12:00 AM
Community, Students

CLEVELAND, Tenn. – Cleveland State Honors student Sierra Cook of Sweetwater was recently selected as the Outstanding Capstone Project Award winner of the CSCC Honors program.

 According to Honors Program Director Dr. Victoria Bryan, the Capstone project is a self-directed research project that a student designs on a topic within their major or future career that interests them and that they want to know more about. Each student takes a research methods class taught by the Honors Program Director and works with a research director within their discipline. At minimum, the project is a research paper and presentation, but students are encouraged to incorporate service and leadership.

Since Cook wants to pursue a career as a dentist, she decided to create a website called “Tooth Truths” that informed children of the importance of good dental hygiene and presented it to different grades throughout the Sweetwater City school system.

“I knew that I loved children, and I wanted to work with them,” stated Cook. “I have younger siblings, so it gave me an advantage because I know where they are mentally.”

For the kindergarten classes, she presented very basic information on how to care for your teeth, but for the 3rd and 4th graders, she went a little more in depth including consequences if you do not use proper care and showed pictures of periodontal disease. For the 5th and 6th graders, she delved even deeper by including the terminology and anatomy of the tooth, in addition to how to care for them and the consequences of not.

Cook was able to gather her data by promising the children the first home room to fill out her survey would be treated to a pizza party donated by Domino’s Pizza of Sweetwater.

Out of 223 submissions, all but one student agreed that they are more motivated to properly care for their teeth after viewing her website.
“I hoped that I would win the Capstone Award, but as I was listening to everyone elses’ presentations, I realized I was up against some strong competition and there were several who were very deserving. When I found out I got the award, it was such a wave of emotions—I’m just so honored and thankful.”

Dr. Bryan stated, “The Honors Program Committee reviewed their project proposals at midterms. These proposals included a description of their project, any leadership or service work they were incorporating, and a brief literature review of what's being said in the research in their field. Sierra’s demonstrated that her project idea was robust, and her research was thorough. Her work was also very well polished, indicating that she cared a great deal about the work in which she was engaging.”

Cook said, “Dr. Bryan has been one of the most influential people in my life. I wasn’t sure what to do with my life and I was considering a lot of different options, but she helped me get a paid internship with at More Smiles Dentisty in Sweetwater, and by acquiring that internship, it solidified the fact that I wanted to be a dentist. I’m so grateful to her.”

She really enjoyed her internship with More Smiles. Not only was she able to assist them with their social media and by producing YouTube videos, but when the internship through CSCC was complete, they asked her to stay on as a dental assistant for a while—suctioning, setting up and taking down.

“I learned so much through this internship. Working with Dr. Christy was amazing. She is just phenomenal and so smart. I didn’t want to waste eight years of school to find out this was not the career for me. This internship helped me with that. Being there, I just knew it was what I wanted to do.”

Cook said she remembers hearing Dr. Bryan speak very early on as a student at CSCC about how she wanted to cultivate a sense of community in the honors program, but she didn’t take it seriously at first. She soon realized Bryan meant what she said.

“When I needed some guidance or help, she was right there with me every step of the way…it’s an honors program, so you will be pushed, but there was always a sense of acceptance that it’s ok if you fall as long as you continue to get back up and try again.”

Cook continued, “I could have never imagined where the honors program would have taken me or the opportunities that I have now. I would never have done anything like this Capstone Project had I not been in this program. That distinguishes me among so many other people trying to be a dentist, and that’s extremely vital…I now have a better understanding of what a leader is, and I don’t have to be the leader in a group to lead. I learned that my service can be my leadership.”

Cook is the daughter of Jared and Elizabeth Stockton of Sweetwater.



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