Guest Post By CeCe Todd, for the East Valley Institute of Technology
Five years after completing the EVIT Dental Assistant program, Stephanie Reyes is well on her way to achieving a dream that started with a child’s broken tooth and no access to dental care.
“When I was 10 years old, I fell on my face and broke off half of my front tooth. At the time, I was living in Africa for my father’s job and was not able to reach a dental office for about a week,” Reyes said. “This experience allowed me to realize the importance of oral care and access to it.”
“When the dentist who helped me gave me my smile back,” she said, “I knew I wanted to impact other people’s lives in the same way.”
Reyes, 22, graduated from Northern Arizona University last spring with a major in Biomedical Science and is now studying to be a dentist at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in Boston.
The Dental Assistant program where she started her career pathway is one of more than 40 career training programs EVIT offers for high school students and adults living in the East Valley. EVIT is tuition-free for high school students; adults pay tuition, with financial aid available in some programs for those who qualify.
Students in the Dental Assistant program learn about dental office operations such as instrument sterilization, radiography and how to assist with operational procedures. In the first semester, they learn the basics, practice hands-on skills in the EVIT dental lab and prepare for x-ray certification. Second semester, they participate in work-based learning at Valley dental offices and are required to complete an 80-hour clinical experience.
Reyes signed up for EVIT’s dental program during her senior year at Mesa’s Mountain View High School. “I knew the dental assisting program would help me gain valuable experience in the dental field,” she said. “The only way you’ll really learn is to do. It may be intimidating because you don’t want to mess up, especially in front of patients, but you have to step in and not be afraid to make mistakes. That’s how you learn.”
After completing her EVIT program and graduating from high school in 2016, Reyes went on to NAU, where she focused on coursework, extracurricular activities and volunteering opportunities while building her dental school application. The experience she gained through her EVIT program enabled her to volunteer as a dental assistant at free dental care events such as Arizona Mission of Mercy and HopeFest Phoenix. Last fall, she was accepted to the Tufts dental school.
“Everything is going great! Our semester started Jan. 4 with remote lectures and soon we will begin operative courses in the simulation clinic,” Reyes said.
Her experience at EVIT and in college has only reinforced the love Reyes has for the industry that gave her back her smile.
“I love the opportunity to help people. Oral health is not as emphasized as it should be,” she said. “I also love being able to be friendly and chat with different patients throughout the day. I love small talk!”
EVIT students have a 98% high school graduation rate, 2 out of 3 go on to college and approximately 94% are in jobs, college or the military within a year of completing their training. Enrollment for 2021-22 is under way. Enroll: www.evit.com/enroll
Stephanie’s Career Path:
- Graduated from Mountain View High School & completed EVIT Dental Assistant program in 2016
- Enrolled as Biomedical Science student at Northern Arizona University
- Volunteered as Dental Assistant in free community dental care events
- Graduated NAU in 2020
- Enrolled at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine
- Goal: Become a dentist