Dental Assistant grad knows “going it alone” can actually focus your career goals
Danielle “Dani” Watson knew no one in California when she loaded up a U-Haul and moved from Kansas to California to start her new Dental Assisting program on the Temecula campus. Her Marine Captain husband Adam was deployed in the Middle East, and she wanted to be close to Camp Pendleton when he returned to base.
“My mom and Adam’s parents helped me move to California, but I knew not a soul,” says Dani. “Adam and I had been in a long-distance relationship for almost our whole time together, and I wanted to be here when he came home.”
Dani was happy she was able to start school soon after her arrival so that she could get her new life going. “I’m thankful I was able to start school early because I met new friends and the instructors were really great.”
At 26 years old, Dani has been a property manager, restaurant manager and bartender, but she always knew exactly where she would land career-wise. “I’ve wanted to go into dental since I was in sixth grade,” she says. “I love the field and everything about it. I loved going to the dentist, the whole experience and the clean feeling you get after leaving. I could fall asleep in the chair, no matter what they’re doing!”
It seemed to be the perfect time to launch her dental career education, while she kept the home fires burning for her husband’s return one day.
Dani started her program strong and put in long days that started at 7 a.m. and ended when she got back home, usually after 6 p.m. She had picked up a tutoring position at the college and helped students struggling in math, English and science.
“It was hard to go home to an empty house, but I had a great support system of family and friends,” says Dani, who communicated often on FaceTime with her husband. Adam gave her the emotional boost to dig deeper. “He was constantly telling me I was doing a good job, keep it up, and reminding me that graduation was on the horizon. He was really proud of me.”
“Dani was alone for most of her schooling but has the personality to be instant friends with everyone she comes in contact with,” says Cindy Ovard, Dental Assisting program instructor. “She had 100% attendance and academic excellence her entire program.”
Dani’s strong work ethic came from her parents, who encouraged her all her life to do well in whatever she undertook. Her dad Michael had passed away not long before she moved to California, but his influence is with her always. “He was very goal-driven, and so am I,” says Dani. “He would tell me, ‘If you want to get something done, you’ve got to work hard for it.’”
The classroom was Dani’s refuge, stage and tree-of-knowledge. “Dentistry has evolved with technology, ability to diagnose, prevention techniques and the effects of dental health,” she says. “You can prevent bad things from happening to your mouth that can affect your heart, because infection can go to the rest of your body and cause major health issues. Missing teeth can actually concave your face!”
Interacting with other students and instructors was fulfilling for her on both professional and personal levels. “There is just a great sense of community at the school,” says Dani. “Instructors are very personable, and even though students were all ages – some in 30s, 40s and 18-year-olds – we bonded on many different levels, and I was able to become really close with the girls (all female class).”
Dani graduated in February with a 4.0 GPA and was swooped up by her extern site dental office. Just a couple of months after her new-hire status, she passed the exam to become a Registered Dental Assistant. “I’m officially licensed!” she says excitedly.
That RDA (Registered Dental Assistant) designation has also enhanced her job duties at work. “I have learned so much at this office,” she says. “And my license has opened the door to new skills and functions I can perform. I am able to spend more time alone (unsupervised) with patients.”
April also brought Adam home, and they have big plans for their future. The military will move Adam to the San Diego area, where he and Dani will finally enjoy their new life together – in one home. “We have been married for over two years, but probably physically together for about four months,” says Dani. There is a lot of lost time to make up.
Dani will continue to further her dental career with continued education to become a Dental Hygienist. “That’s what I want long-term,” she says.
Meanwhile, these two Kansans are enjoying the California beaches and discovering the simple pleasures of sharing each other’s company. “I love it out here, the vibe, the people; there’s so much more to do,” says Dani.
After so many years of a long-distance relationship, they are enjoying the simple pleasures of sharing time and space. “You get to be around somebody and don’t have to necessarily even talk, just hand-holding and all that cute stuff,” says Dani.
They are also thinking about expanding their living experience to include a new family member or two. Life is bountiful.
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