About Us

Why Students?

Because they are our future.

Operation Smile counts on the compassion of students, parents, and educators to help us bring as many smiles as we can to children all across the world. From the hundreds of sponsored clubs throughout the globe, to the student volunteers selected to accompany us on our missions, we depend on our young leaders to build awareness, raise funds and educate others on our mission.

Our Vision

We believe in the power of youth to create a compassionate world.

Our Mission

Operation Smile Student Programs empowers youth globally through advocacy, education, leadership and service.

Our student volunteers represent the future of furthering the Operation Smile mission. Volunteering with us affords them a fulfilling and unique opportunity to be exposed to different cultures, serve those who need it the most, and discover things about themselves they may not have otherwise.

Our Pillars

Leadership: We create the environment to empower youth to become globally-minded activators. We cultivate leadership by facilitating innovative and inspiring programs that teach valuable skills and grow confident leaders.

Service: We empower youth to understand the importance of being an active participant in helping others locally and globally. We promote opportunities for youth to volunteer and take personal ownership of a cause.

Advocacy: We inspire youth to be an active voice for communities around the world who lack access to safe, well-timed and effective surgery.

Education: We instill the value of teaching and learning to promote social responsibility through exposure to authentic experiences, diverse communities and global health care.

Meet our Student Programs team

We’re here and ready to support your Operation Smile endeavors!

If you live in the United States, please check out the map below to see which Student Programs staff member represents your state.

If you live in Latin America or the Caribbean (LAC), Gaby Sagel is your associate!

If you live outside of the United States and LAC, reach out to Carlos Verón, our international manager.

email: brigette.clifford@operationsmile.org

Brigette is from Virginia Beach, Virginia. She is the eldest child of Operation Smile Co-Founders Dr. Bill and Kathy Magee, and she is the co-founder of Student Programs. She attended the very first medical mission and served as her father’s scrub nurse; today, she leads our global network of student volunteers and continues to nurture opportunities where young people can meaningfully serve Operation Smile’s patients.


email: carlos.veron@operationsmile.org

Carlos is from Asunción, Paraguay. His favorite animal is a dog, and his favorite class in school was music. The patient who sticks out most in his mind was Juanes from Monteria, Colombia, whom Carlos met in 2009. And his favorite thing about working for Operation Smile Student Programs is “knowing that we are creating the leaders of tomorrow. And it keeps me young!”


email: morgan.banaszek@operationsmile.org

Morgan grew up in Armonk, New York, and after a 7-year stint in China, has found her way back to her hometown. Her favorite animals are quokkas (if you don’t know what they are, look them up, they’re pretty cute) and back in school she was a huge history nerd! Working for Operation Smile provides Morgan with the opportunity to guide and shape youth to go forth in the world making a positive impact.

email: jacqueline.nguyen@operationsmile.org

Jackie is from Miami, Florida. Her favorite animal is a little dog, and her favorite class in school was government and economics. Her favorite thing about working for Operation Smile Student Programs is connecting with different students and supporting their ideas to help children around the world.

email: pete.hansen@operationsmile.org

Pete is from Virginia Beach, Virginia. His favorite animal is his pet beagle. Pete loves spending time with his family, surfing on his paddle board, cooking barbecue and playing his guitar. His favorite thing about working with Operation Smile is being able to provide a platform for students to be involved in changing the lives of others around the world!

email: gaby.sagel@operationsmile.org

My name is Maria Gabriela, and I am from Panama. I love Mexican food and my favorite animal are bears. During my first international mission, I met Fidel, an orphan boy. I realized he was an orphan only when I lady who I thought was his mother said she’s a staff member from the orphanage. She told me Fidel’s family left him because of his condition. Fidel became my best friend of the mission. We twinned, wearing matching T-shirts. He asked me if I could go with him to the OR and if I will be there when he wakes up. Three weeks later, I received an email from the lady at the orphanage — it was written by Fidel. He said he missed me and asked where Panama was, and if it was far away, and if we could see each other again. I think this is what I like most about Operation Smile: Just by giving your time, you can change lives. And that is why I love being part of Student Programs, because you realize the impact that young people can have on our patients. (Plus, I can feel forever young!)

email: kate.malla@operationsmile.org

Kate is from Virginia Beach and, you guessed it, her favorite place to be is the beach! Her favorite animal is a dolphin, and her favorite class in school was English. She loves surfing, spending time with family, and being outdoors. Her favorite thing about Operation Smile is being able to empower students to make a difference in children’s lives around the world!

email: bethany.bogacki@operationsmile.org

Bethany has spent nine-tenths of her life in Hampton Roads, Virginia. At her previous job as a newspaper production editor, she helped cover the localities of the Virginia Peninsula. Her favorite subjects in school were art and English. Bethany’s favorite thing about working for Operation Smile is being a part of empowering students everywhere to make a difference anywhere.

Juanjo is from Asunción, Paraguay. His favorite animal is a dog, and his favorite class in school was theatre. He’s a huge fan of movies and series. His favorite thing about working for Operation Smile Student Programs is “the fact that your time can help to change people’s life and at the same time you are changing too”

email: christabelle.fernandez@operationsmile.org

Christabelle is from Virginia Beach. Her favorite animal is a moose, and her favorite class in school was gym. The mission experience that sticks out most in her mind was “hanging in the Philippines while both of my students ate balut (duck embryo).” And her favorite thing about working for Operation Smile Student Programs is the students!


Since its founding in 1982, Operation Smile has worked tirelessly to ensure every child in the world has access to exceptional surgical care. Our global network of medical professionals, volunteers, supporters and student leaders are driven every day to make a difference in the lives of children they’ve never met.

After a medical mission to the Philippines to repair the cleft lips and palates of pediatric patients there, our Co-Founder Dr. William P. Magee Jr. and his wife Kathleen recognized the overwhelming need to help more families than their small team of volunteers could accommodate. As they prepared to leave, the Magees made a promise they would return to help more children — and Operation Smile was born.

But they realized something else during that inaugural program: the power of young volunteers.

They had brought their oldest child, their teenager Brigette, to that medical mission and watched in awe as she formed deep bonds and built trust with the patients and their families. Not only was she a comforting and friendly presence, but she stepped up and served as her father’s scrub nurse in the operating room.

Upon her return to the United States, Brigette and her friend Danny Rosin went on to form the first-ever Operation Smile club: the Happy Club at Norfolk Academy in Hampton Roads, Virginia. Since then, thousands of clubs have formed in dozens of countries around the world.

Today, Operation Smile is an international medical charity with a presence in more than 60 countries, and whose global network of thousands of credentialed medical volunteers from over 80 countries is committed to helping improve the health and lives of children. For almost 40 years we’ve worked with local medical professionals, governments, hospitals and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to deliver quality care to each of our patients and have established medical facilities wherever possible to continue that care for children in need. Operation Smile also offers training and educational programs that empower local medical professionals to provide services for children in their communities.

Students will always be at the heart of Operation Smile. We’re grateful to our students of every age who help to rally donations, host fundraisers and raise awareness for cleft conditions.

Since our inception, we’ve provided more than 220,000 free surgeries for children born with cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial conditions.