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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Student in Visalia Dental Assisting program excels while juggling three jobs

October 29, 2018

Visalia Dental Assisting student Jared Ray with familyJared Ray is committed to his education and family. Not only is he balancing the responsibilities of being a husband and father with the demands of being a student in SJVC Visalia’s Dental Assisting program; he works not one, but three jobs while he trains to become a dental assistant.

“I’m the kind of person who wants it now,” says Jared. “If I need to get into something, I’m going to get with it.”

It has always been that way for him. When he finds what he wants, he is all in. “I was overweight most of my childhood, so I started working out at the gym the summer before my senior year of high school,” says Jared. “I got excited when I lost a little weight and got some muscle. Working out became my passion.”

He found a way to turn that new-found passion into financial security. “I got involved in CrossFit and became a part-time trainer at the gym,” he says. That position became full-time and, after a couple of years, grew to include a gym in a neighboring city.

Now 29 years old, Jared has had a couple of important people come into his life. First he met Shawn Fox, who became his mentor and best friend. A couple of years later, Jared met Sara, who would become his wife and mother of their daughter Hannah, now 18 months old. Both Shawn and Sara have inspired Jared to greater heights of career dreams and accomplishments.

Shawn has a dental practice in Visalia, and after inviting Jared to shadow him at his practice one day, they both shared an epiphany. Jared’s people skills would transfer very well into patient communication and care. “He (Shawn) told me that someone like me would excel as a Dental Assistant,” says Jared. “That my ‘good character and personality match’ would be valuable assets to his office. That meant a lot to me.”

Jared made the most of his day in scrubs, behind-the-scenes. It was like looking behind the curtain of a well-oiled machine and finding the steady heartbeat of a staff’s commitment to serve others.

“After that day, I had a newfound respect for what dental offices do, and how involved the dental assistants are with the dentist,” says Jared. “Dental assistants make sure the dentist is well-prepared and are an integral part of the procedures and the office as a- whole. I thought, yeah, I can do this.”

That decision would mean getting the required education and credentials to become a Dental Assistant.

Sara was completely on board with Jared’s new career direction. But, how was he going to juggle school with his CrossFit job, and his work as a Health and Wellness Director for an office complex’s employees? “Sara said she would back me up 100%,” says Jared. They knew they could make it work.

“Shawn said something to me one day, and it stuck with me,” says Jared. “He said, ‘Moderation is for cowards; and anything worth doing is worth overdoing.’”

A week later, Jared visited SJVC’s Visalia campus. “They excelled in [meeting] my expectations; the hands-on training, everything,” he says. He enrolled three weeks later for a start date the following month.

And Jared being Jared, he also began interning on his own time a few hours each weekday at Shawn’s dental office. “I do it after school to get more experience,” says Jared. And that would be job number three.

“When I signed the contract (SJVC’s enrollment agreement), I understood fully what was expected of me, and I would strive to meet expectations,” says Jared. “I also understood that as a student, I’d be working full-time and still make my commitments to my wife and my daughter.”

Jared is not just meeting but exceeding his commitments. “[He] has such a remarkable attitude, and is a huge help to his instructors,” says Chelly Olson, Dental Assisting instructor. “He is an inspiration to all he meets. He’s every teacher’s dream, and one of those students that makes you want to keep them as a student because they make the class a joy to be around.”

With a 4.0 GPA, Jared is on the Dean’s List and volunteers to help other students whenever there is a need. “I like every part of it,” says Jared. “My classmates make it really enjoyable and the instructors show that they legitimately care about you and your success.”

But for someone who seemed fully prepared for his career choice, the reality of dentistry was more complicated than Jared expected. “I had no idea that there was so much involved with teeth!” he says. “Poor oral hygiene can lead to so many health problems.”

This self-lit career fire has just begun. “I want to invest in my career as much as I can,” says Jared. “I want to get as much education and accumulate as many certifications as possible. Along the way, I want to be an instructor at SJVC. I love teaching and think I could be an asset…and maybe one day take over the whole (Dental Assisting) program! Mrs. Zepeda (Dental Assistant Program Director) laughed and then said she thought I could do it in another five years.”

Jared does not lack the inspiration to succeed. A lot of his motivation happened quietly at home. “It really came after I became a father and realized that my wife and daughter are my priority, and I have a duty to ensure that what I am doing will benefit my family.”

There is an even bigger picture that Jared strives to project. “Ultimately, what I do here on Earth is to bring glory to my God. That lifts me because Christ is the fulcrum of my life, and it’s because of Him and my family that I’m the way I am.”

Jared’s advice to any who might be struggling and searching for a way out and up: “Don’t be afraid of the unknown; embrace it.”

Take it from someone who has it pretty well figured out.




Learn More About A Career In Dental Assisting

Are you interested in dentistry and passionate about helping people? Then a dental assistant career could be for you. Dental assistants work in dental offices under the supervision of dentists. They have excellent interpersonal, organizational and listening skills.

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