“When I was in 9th grade I developed a plan. I was going to get a head start on my future by interning in a dental office the fall of my senior year in high school and take college classes in the spring, with a goal of attending dental hygiene school when I graduated. I was convinced that this was the only plan for me. I knew what I wanted to be and how I was going to get there.
As it turns out, life interfered with my plan.
Due to circumstances out of my control, I had to move out of my house at age 17 which meant graduating early from high school and working full time. My chances of taking college classes were eliminated. This put me in a dark mindset where I was angry at the world for the hand I was dealt. It was so easy to just give up on everything and let myself believe that I could never achieve anything greater.
However, my boyfriend at the time (now husband) and his family pushed me to look into the Lancaster County Career & Technology Center and through a connection from my mother-in-law, I was introduced to Tricia Nabers and the New Choices Career Development Program. This is a 10-day, career guidance class that benefits individuals in transition by giving them the skills and resources to succeed.
“New Choices was built on the premise of women being able to seek guidance and direction in
a safe space. It’s an honor to work with folks who come through our doors hopeless and leave feeling hopeful, refreshed and ready to face their fears turning their dreams into reality. Rachel was no different. She came to New Choices feeling depleted with little to no self-efficacy. However, within a 10-day period, she realized that she is worth more and has what it takes to achieve her goals. We now get to witness the residual effect that a program like New Choices has for folks who forget their value,” said New Choices Director Tricia Nabors.
I never imagined that it would help change the pathway of my life. Through this program, I learned that anger is the worst form of self-sabotage. I was only hurting myself by directing the anger I felt about my situation at those who cared and were trying to help. It also taught me that eliminating the negative people and influences from my life can help give me back some control.
Most importantly, I discovered that even though I can’t completely control what happens to or around me, I can control how I respond to it. I realized that I could keep using my circumstances as a crutch to limp my way through life or I could make the conscious effort to rise above it and demand better for myself. It’s easy to live in a place where you use your bad experiences as an excuse to not reach your full potential. However, it’s much more fulfilling to make things happen for yourself because you believe that you are worth it.
With a new found determination, I started my dental assisting program at Lancaster County CTC. In the beginning months of the program, I lost my father to suicide. I had a choice to make. I could use this as an excuse to drop the program and say I couldn’t do it or I could work even harder through the pain to prove to myself that I will not let my circumstances define me. I chose the latter and graduated first in my program.
My instructor, Dr. Kelly, told me that she believed that I was smart and capable enough to do anything I wanted to. Coming from her, these words gave substantiation that I was doing what I was meant to be doing.
When a co-op opportunity arose and was offered to me, I graciously accepted and began my career in the dental field. It was a little strange at first because I always had it in my head that I was going to be a hygienist. Now here I was on the other side and I loved it. I learned everything I could from all the experienced people around me who had spent the greater part of their lives in dentistry. I asked questions and attended continuing education courses to expand my knowledge and skills.
After working for a year as a chairside assistant, I knew I wanted to go back to school to be an Expanded Function Dental Assistant because I wanted to be more hands-on and have a more dynamic role in working with patients. I choose Lancaster County CTC for my schooling because I wanted the highest quality of education I could possibly receive. I graduated and passed my state exam.
School year 2017-2018, Dr. Kelly let me know that the Dental Assisting program was looking to hire an aide. I jumped at the chance because I wanted to be able to be a part of igniting the same passion I had and share my knowledge. One year after that, the instructor position become available. I applied and was offered the job.
Looking back to where I started, I never thought that I would one day be an educator and leader. When people ask me why I made the career move from EFDA to teacher, the answer is simple. I did it for those students who want to do better for themselves and their families. I did it for those students who are grateful for the chance to get an education that can lead to a rewarding career. I did it for those students who need just one person to believe in them and tell them they can succeed. I did it to help those who were just like I was.The biggest success story I hope for is to affect one student’s life the same way that Dr. Kelly did for me.