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Pictured from left to right are Natalie Kaweckyj, LDA, RF, CDA, BA, ADAA President, Jennifer Veiga, Baker College Dental Assisting Student, Deborah Jaruzel, CDA, RDA, BS, MDAA President

On April 25, 2018, students from Baker College's Dental Assisting program attended the Michigan Dental Assistants Association Annual Session in Lansing, MI where they competed in multiple events.

Dental Assisting student Jennifer Veiga competed in the James E. Bush essay competition where her essay earned first place. Baker College will now be the host of the James E. Bush plaque for the 2018-2019 academic school year.

Veiga is also one of five students in the country to earn the Juliette Southard Scholarship from the ADAA for exhibiting qualities of organization, cooperation, integrity and leadership during her dental assisting education, as well as receiving the ADAA Merit Scholar Award.

We want to congratulate Jennifer on all her recent accomplishments and to invite you to read her award-winning essay below. We couldn't be more BakerProud.

"As a non-traditional returning student, I often find myself working harder. As a non-traditional mother, I often find myself pushing out of boundaries I had set for my family and myself a very long time ago. I am a thirty-year-old woman who is returning to school, completely changing her career path from therapy to dentistry, taking on a foster child in the middle of it all, and somehow, I am the happiest I have ever been in my life.

When I first began thinking of changing careers I knew I wanted to do something in the dental field. I first started into pre-hygiene, however, I found quickly that it wasn’t for me. At the time, pre-hygiene didn’t excite me as I had hoped it would, and I wasn’t ready to dedicate my time to something I was not passionate about. However, when our college later brought a certified dental assisting program to the campus, I read more about it and met with the advisor and fell in love. I knew I could become the person that others depended upon and looked to for support, like the therapist that I was, while using my other skills and interests in different ways for dental work. I could help someone feel good about themselves again and literally give them their smile back.

When I started the program, I met so many wonderful women and instructors. I feel like I have already achieved so much in this program, and was voted to be the President of our dental assisting class. Before when I was in school, I never felt like I truly gave it my all, or I was afraid to ask questions or try something first. Now, I am so very excited to get my hands dirty and mix alginate, pour up models, and try something new. Dental assisting has made me a new person.

Along with school, I have also been blessed with a foster daughter, who has been teaching me patience and a different kind of love. The warmth she has shown me has given me a feeling of how great it can be to give back to the community. At first, I was very interested in becoming a surgical dental assistant upon certification, however since I’ve had the chance to foster a child, I’ve felt more compelled to work in community dentistry and with a lower income population. I live near Detroit and have seen first hand the struggles of some of these lower income areas. 

In my future work as a registered dental assistant, I hope to be able to show people that are like my foster daughter and her birth parents that there are people who do care about their health and happiness. I understand that the way that we look is not all that matters, however, for many, the way we see ourselves on the outside can affect how we act or feel about ourselves inside. Part of this is to be able to respect ourselves more, which in turn allows us to respect and project greater positivity towards others.

I see myself as a future R.D.A. who can help those that might not have easy access to resources in their local areas, which is why I am currently signed up to serve at the Mission of Mercy event this year at Calvin College as a sterilization assistant. I am sure many in our dental community are signed up as well, which will be wonderful to see, and amazing to witness the impact of giving on such a large scale.
Having previously worked in a therapy discipline, I always hoped to help people in a way that was meaningful to them, although I struggled to find successes in the ways I had hoped. While looking for a new career, I wanted something that could still satisfy my desire to help people, but with more tangible outcomes. With dental assisting, I feel I would be the person patients would look to for support, guidance, and knowledge to feel comfortable. But I have also found passion in learning the science behind the profession and gaining the necessary knowledge.

My long-term hope is to be an advocate to show others how great it feels to give back, as well as how important to our communities our services can be. Some days it’s a struggle to raise a child who is not biologically my own, but still, I show her the love and support she deserves. Every human deserves that love and friendliness, and many times a smile is all it takes. In the future, I hope to be able to work or volunteer with people who need our services but maybe can’t afford the care they require to be healthy. I have a passion to show those that are unsure of how they feel on the outside that they can be beautiful, feel great about themselves,
and live an exceptional life.

I have recently found out that one of my clinical sites is at a “My Community Dental Center” in Detroit, and I could not be happier about my placement. They are a non-profit organization that gives back to the community and helps those that are in need of quality dental care. It has recently opened, and I will be able to play a part in helping it grow. The dentist, Dr. Lee, was speaking to me about when I spend my time there and what to expect. He told me that I would often be asked daily about a previous day's patient count of how many lives we had changed, rather than the profit made that day, even though it was a business. Their mission is about creating life-changing moments, and quality dental care, not about pushing a profit or making money.

Dental assisting has changed my life, and I’m sure in some way it has impacted yours. We all impact each other's lives and the lives of our patients every day. We are humble and kind people in our office, we are often the therapists for those who are anxious or have fear. We come to know our patients and their families and learn about their lives as well. We are the people who offer a kind touch or a warm hand for those who show unease at the sound of a dental handpiece. We are often the first and last person to see them into and out of the operatory. What if we looked at life this way? What if we could see our friends, family, and even strangers this way? What if we could offer a gentle touch or a caring smile to a stranger who hasn’t seen kindness in years?

The purpose of this essay isn’t to make you feel bad about yourself or to belittle you. It isn’t to make you look up to me or anyone else at a community dental center in any way. It is to encourage you to just smile at someone different today, maybe someone you don’t know. To think about the impact that “paying it forward” really might have on the person you open the door for when you leave this building. It is to show you how we can make a difference inside and outside our dental offices if we try. We can be the ones who change the lives of others, often just by being kind. We change the lives of our patients daily by assisting in repairing, replacing, and reshaping their oral structures. I believe it is something we can also take upon ourselves to repair, reshape, and replace poor feelings, attitudes, and thoughts in ourselves, and help others to do it in themselves, too. Sometimes it only takes one small action, why not try?"

-Jennifer Veiga
Baker College Dental Assisting

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