Ngone Seck | St. Louis Public Radio

Ngone Seck

Feb. 7, 2019. Ngone Seck takes the MetroLink and multiple buses to get to work in St. Ann.
File photo | Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

Ngone Seck, a first-generation college student from Florissant who received a full scholarship to Washington University, is smiling bigger after getting her teeth fixed. But the long hours she spent working toward that goal have taken a toll.

After St. Louisans learned that her dental problems and heavy work schedule made college a struggle, dozens reached out to the Italian immigrant of West African heritage.

Some offered money, others free dental services. Seck took a Ladue dental clinic up on its offer of treatment and surgery, and completed the work this spring.

But after falling behind in her classes, Seck took a leave of absence from Wash U. Although she’s disappointed, Seck retains her full scholarship.

Feb. 7, 2019. Ngone Seck studies for her Korean language class at her dorm room on Washington University's campus.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

When Ngone Seck graduated as Riverview Gardens’ valedictorian in May — the first in her family bound for college — it seemed nothing could slow her down.

A few weeks later, the Italian immigrant with West African roots began her classes at Washington University on a full scholarship.

But long-simmering and costly dental problems threaten the trajectory of the musically talented engineering major from Florissant. She lives with pain while working full time to pay for her dental care, and her grades are suffering.