13909379_10206574961323845_8638782356842109665_oWe are proud to present an article published by the Austin American Statesman about our Sonrisas Foundation. We hope you enjoy reading it!

Married immigrant dentists want to help others succeed.

A couple committed to empowering youth to follow their dreams and pursue a higher education has launched a foundation with that goal.

Enrique and Mahya Farnia Cruz created Sonrisas Foundation, which aims to improve access to education through scholarships and mentoring. The pair are dentists who became aware of the need through serving multiple families in their practice.

“We want to help young people who want to succeed, but sometimes their dreams are cut short because of lack of funds,” said Enrique Cruz, 39, originally from Mexico. Mahya Farnia Cruz, 32, was born in Los Angeles and raised in Iran.

They met while pursuing their specialty degrees at Indiana University. He had to pursue a dual specialty in to be allowed to use his dental degree from the Universidad Autónoma de México in Mexico City, once he moved the United States. “It’s a very difficult process, a lot of people can’t do it, they give up.”

He and his wife had to overcome many challenges in order to succeed in their adopted country.

“One of the challenges was speaking English at the university level,” he said, “and obtaining high marks in all the requirements, to be admitted into the dental specialty.”

Farnia Cruz initially studied medical engineering in California, but realized she really wanted to be a dentist.

“She was the smartest of the class. We were classmates, friends, and then a relationship blossomed. We share the same passion for dentistry,” Enrique Cruz said. They also enjoy spending time with their 1 ½ year-old girl, soccer and travel, he said.

The 501(c)3 foundation, tax ID 81-3424930, is the culmination of efforts that began soon after they arrived in Austin four years ago, Cruz said. They enjoy giving presentations about dentistry in local schools, and they hold an annual back-to-school events where they give out school supplies, dental cleanings, hair cut coupons and eye exams. Now, they look forward to contributing their time, vision and effort to empowering others.

Cruz said he was inspired by the 16 dentists in his family back in Mexico — “The first one was my uncle, then a bunch of cousins, including seven women dentists” — and a few more are studying right now, so there may soon be 20 dentists in the Cruz family.

The couple, through their dental practice, has given an initial $20,000 to the foundation, and they hope to raise more money at the inaugural Sonrisas Latin Gala on Oct. 1 at the J.W. Marriott. They hope to begin by funding 10 annual $5,000 scholarships and expand to help more students.