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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Despite Any Kind of Obstacle, Keep Reaching for a Goal – Dental Hygiene Grad, now Periodontist, Cherilyn Kasperian

October 25, 2022

“SJVC was a special place for me,” says Cherilyn Kasperian, now the sole owner of a periodontal practice in Chula Vista, a suburb of San Diego, CA. A graduate of SJVC’s Dental Hygiene program in Visalia, Kasperian overcame a challenging childhood, her own doubt about making the grade, a debilitating disease, and completed eight years of studying while mothering four children to achieve what would be the goal of becoming a periodontist.


Cherilyn is a model for any students at SJVC who, like her, believe they are just beginning to explore what they are capable of. With the support of the excellent teachers and staff of the Dental Hygiene program, graduates not only walk away prepared for the licensure examination* to practice Dental Hygiene, but a belief in their own ability to set goals and accomplish whatever they put their mind to.


Cherilyn’s early childhood was poor. Born and raised in Illinois by two loving parents who had no college education, she was the youngest of three sisters. They shopped second hand stores for clothes. Because there was often nothing to eat at home, sometimes they received whatever food samples their uncle brought home from his job. He was a chemist performing research on different kinds of food, so he would bring home to them whatever food was left over from a day’s work. Cherilyn studied hard to make good grades, hoping it would help her figure out what she desired to do in order to improve her life.


Her childhood forged a desire to succeed, but at first she had no idea how or where to direct herself. Another caring uncle had a periodontal practice of his own; he called her and said he had the perfect profession for her – to become a dental hygienist. He knew she had made good grades in school and convinced her to apply to a Dental Hygiene program. He said he would give her a job in his office when she had completed her courses. She knew the competition would be very stiff to get into any program. But with his encouragement she went for it.


There was just one thing: to get into a Dental Hygiene program you had to pass Chemistry. She was terribly afraid of failing chemistry; she knew she was good at math and science, but a bad high school chemistry teacher had convinced her she would never understand it.


“Well,” she thought, “if I can’t get through it, I need to find that out.” So, she worked at it and turned the tide. She figured it out and got an A in the course.  Now she says it was one of her most favorite classes.


Next step: applying to a Dental Hygiene program. She applied to every Dental Hygiene program near Modesto, where she had completed the necessary undergraduate courses for her application. She was turned down by every program in the area except one.  SJVC.


“SJVC saw my potential not just by looking at my grades but by interviewing me and getting to know me. They were the first and only place that seriously considered me. I remember the exact day of my interview. They gave me the chance and the opportunity. I am so thankful for that school.” It was just the beginning of her journey to reach the first of her goals, to become a Dental Hygienist, in spite of whatever obstacles were in her way.


And she did have more obstacles. At the age of 18, Cherilyn discovered she had epilepsy. In the course of her studies and during her periodontal residency (not part of SJVC) she suffered four grand mal seizures. However, the burning desire to achieve beyond her current situation to reach her goal remained; she was not going to let a disease or a circumstance get in her way.


After ten happy years as a Dental Hygienist (she loved the work), raising a family while pursuing her next goal to become a periodontist, then working in San Diego in her uncle’s practice for the last three years, Cherilyn bought the practice from him. She believes in continuing to make new goals as you move through life.  Someday she’d like to work in a different community, perhaps an Indian reservation, or a third world country. Maybe she will try teaching. She believes in taking what you learn and going beyond it.


Problems always get in the way, no matter whether they are physical or mental; they are teaching tools to someone like Cherilyn. Anxiety, for example, is one.  “We all suffer from anxiety,” she says. One could consider it a handicap every bit as much as epilepsy. Seeing problems as teaching tools is her approach to a successful and happy life.


“Take what you learn and go beyond it,” she says. Even with the amazing success she has achieved so far, Cherilyn will keep on learning.


*SJVC prepares students to take
appropriate certification and licensure exams related to their individual majors. The College does not guarantee students
will successfully pass these exams or be certified or licensed as a result of completing the program.

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