Dental Assistant student lands job at extern site 6 weeks before graduating
Vanessa Ojeda made a smooth transition from high school to SJVC’s Dental Assistant program in Visalia. “I thought Dental Assisting would be interesting because you don’t just do one thing every day,” she says. “You see lots of different people, and you get to do a variety of procedures.”
Vanessa’s sister Jennifer had graduated from SJVC’s Vocational Nursing program a few years earlier, and had been after her to check out the college’s Dental Assisting program.
It didn’t take much convincing for Vanessa to talk with an Admissions Advisor and take a tour of the campus. Shortly after, she enrolled in the Dental Assistant program, and just two weeks after high school graduation, she was sitting in a new class, on her way to a career she was excited to begin.
Her parents Jose and Virginia were happy she had made a commitment to further her education toward a professional position. “My parents came here when they were young and didn’t go to high school,” says Vanessa. “I saw how hard they worked, and it made me want to be something.”
She found her instructors to be very supportive, but not parental. “It was different from high school,” says Vanessa. “No one was going to tell you to do the work, you had to take responsibility for yourself to get your homework done. It was more like an adult environment and wasn’t as stressful.”
The pace of the Dental Assistant program seemed to work for everyone. “The best thing is how the teachers would find a way to make things click for everyone,” says Vanessa. “If someone learned more by the book or hands-on, everyone felt like they knew what we were doing.”
It was a dynamic that worked well for Vanessa. She earned a 3.8 GPA and was awarded Student of the Quarter for excellence in academics, attendance and professionalism. “My parents were really proud,” she says. “They weren’t really hard on me to go to school, but when I was a senior (high school) they were always asking me what I was going to do.” She was happy they would never have to worry about her future now.
Vanessa especially enjoyed later modules of instruction when Dental Assisting students practice their newly developed skills with actual patients. “I really like treating people who come in for treatment,” she says. “We took X-rays, did coronal polish, sealant, everything we’d learned in class. I brought in friends from high school because they are going to tell you the truth (about treatment skill). They were shocked because they didn’t think they would ever see me so serious.”
Vanessa carried that professionalism into her extern site during the last weeks of her program, where she impressed the dental staff well enough to get a job offer. Six weeks before completion of her program, Vanessa found herself working full-time.
Vanessa had also managed to become proficient at operating an important piece of dental machinery. The CAD/CAM system is new computerized technology that allows skilled technicians to make dental crowns in-office. “Vanessa dazzled at her extern site by mastering the CAC/CAM system, which encompasses a camera, computer and milling machine in one instrument,” says Minerva Zepeda, Dental Assisting Program Director. “This skill requires special training and practice, and Vanessa is a natural.”
Performing this well-honed skill is something Vanessa especially enjoys. “If a tooth doesn’t have enough structure to hold itself up, we prep the tooth and scan the tooth to design the crown,” she says. “The pictures determine that you will get a good margin and good contact between the crown and the tooth.”
Vanessa loves her new job, but also misses the college and the friends she made there. “When I started school, my mindset was just to go to school and learn,” she says. “I didn’t know I would enjoy it as much as I did. I felt like I got close to friends and miss being in class with classmates and instructors.”
Just a couple of months out of school, Vanessa knows many students struggle to balance life responsibilities with classes. Her advice is solid. “My thinking was always that once you start, you’re already closer to the finish line than when you started. Every day they stay in, they get a little closer to success.”
At 19 years old, she has lived some practical career advice.
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