Once a first-generation college student herself, creating a supportive environment is at the top of Malcolm X College Dental Hygiene Professor Dr. Sherece Thompson’s list.

In addition to teaching her courses and helping her students, Dr. Thompson serves as a One Million Degrees (OMD) coach to City Colleges students. One Million Degrees is an organization that provides comprehensive support to community college students to help them succeed not only in higher education, but in life in general. One Million Degrees scholars receive financial and academic support, professional development opportunities, and mentorship from coaches like Dr. Thompson.

One Million Degrees coaches are vital to the program, as they provide individualized support and encouragement to the students they’re matched with. Coaches and their students build a relationship that oftentimes extends beyond graduation. In fact, Dr. Thompson has seen scholars graduate and pursue careers that change lives.

She also keeps in touch with many of the students she coached. One student graduated from City Colleges and transferred to Chicago State University with the intent to eventually enter medical school. Dr. Thompson hears from that student often about her grades and her path to getting accepted into medical school.

Dr. Thompson has been a coach with OMD for almost 10 years because she enjoys serving others and watching her students succeed.

“I continue because it’s rewarding to see the growth, confidence, and determination to complete a goal or dream achieved by the scholars,” Dr. Thompson said. “They demonstrate the ability to overcome obstacles and barriers that prove they have the tenacity to not only survive but thrive in the process.”

When Dr. Thompson first began coaching, she coached dental hygiene students. Now, she’s chosen to coach students outside of her discipline, while still providing the same level of guidance and support.

“I support them by being a listener, resource, coach, cheerleader, role model, and, most of all, living proof they can achieve whatever they set out to do with the right resources, knowledge, and determination to excel,” she said. “I tell my story as a testimony of what they can do and become as a scholar.”

OMD isn’t the only way Dr. Thompson serves. Volunteering her time, knowledge, and talent is a passion that runs deep for her. She’s provided dental care to residents of a Chicago housing development and offered free dental care to patients in the basement of a former church building on Chicago’s South Side. Throughout her career, she has also split time between her private dental practice and affordable clinics to help people of all income levels. She sold her private practice in 2019 and teaches at both Malcolm X and the University of Illinois Chicago’s College of Dentistry. She volunteers with the Chicago Dental Society Foundation Clinic and the Mission of Mercy Dental Foundation offering free dental care.