dental assistant graduate

Dental Assistant Student Awarded Scholarship

Lydia Walls looks up to her mom and the hard work she had to put in over the years to support the family. She was always working two jobs, so she sometimes wasn’t home to spend time with Lydia and her siblings, who developed a close relationship and often looked after one another as they grew.

Unfortunately, her mom’s focus on work also left her little time to take care of herself. Lydia said this led to an unfortunate visit to her dentist’s office – an appointment her mom expected would be routine.

“She thought she was going in for a cleaning, and they said she needed dentures,” Lydia recalls. “They had to extract all her teeth. It was really shocking to me because, on the outlook of it, it looked like she had really nice teeth. She had a great smile, but she was in pain a lot.”

And, once she got dentures, Lydia said she witnessed a noticeable change in her mom. The once-confident woman became more self-conscious during what were once moments of levity, like when she’d smile or laugh.

“It took a toll on her,” Lydia said. “I wanted to change that for my mom and for other people.”

This desire led Lydia toward enrolling in the Dental Assistant Program at UEI College’s Stockton campus during the spring.

And, her commitment to her education as well as to making an impact in her future profession recently led to Lydia being selected for the Dr. Carolyn Ghazal Dental Assistant Scholarship – a $5,000 scholarship from the Pacific Dental Services® Foundation (PDSF).

Recognizing the importance of dental assistants to the future of dentistry, the Pacific Dental Services Foundation created the Dr. Carolyn Ghazal Dental Assistant Scholarship to provide students with need-based financial aid, mentorship, and on-the-job training. Named after Dr. Carolyn Ghazal and her heart for service, the scholarship aims to mold the next generation of passionate, servant-hearted, dental assistant leaders. Over the past few years, the Pacific Dental Services Foundation has given over $778,000 in scholarships to DA students, including several from other UEI College campus locations in California.

“The scholarship provides students with financial aid, support and mentorship as they pursue a career in dental assisting,” said Dr. Carolyn Ghazal, Chair of Associate Dentist Development at PDS University – Institute of Dentistry. “My hope is that it will make a significant impact in the life of a DA student and foster their professional and personal development.”

A Passion for Helping Kids

As a 24-year-old who has long been an advocate for at-risk youths and who looks forward to working with kids in pediatric dentistry, Lydia certainly fits the description of PDSF’s ideal scholarship candidate.

At an early age – when she was still a kid, in fact – Lydia developed a passion for helping and mentoring children. When she was just 10, her sister passed away, leaving behind a young son whom Lydia played a significant role in raising.

In fact, while her mom was working, Lydia took on a much more adult role in her home than her age would suggest.

“Everybody pretty much had their own things going on with work and everything, so I was always at home to cook dinner and take care of the little ones,” she said. “This included raising my nephew after my sister passed. He became more than a nephew to me. He was like a son and a brother.”

Around the time Lydia was 15, however, juvenile services caught wind of her nephew’s situation. They took him from the family and put him in foster care, an ordeal that helped solidify Lydia’s passion for taking care of kids.

So, soon after high school, Lydia started working with at-risk youths staying in juvenile halls based in Santa Clara. She became a Registered Behavior Assistant, but she couldn’t see herself continuing down this path over the long term.

That’s when she started looking into the dentistry field. And, her sister – a Medical Assistant student in Sacramento – recommended she enroll at UEI College.

Scholarship is a Confidence-Booster

While still in the early stages of UEI’s Dental Assistant program in Stockton, Lydia said she already envisions great things for herself and her career. She looks forward to becoming a great dental assistant, then furthering her professional education and perhaps opening her own pediatric practice so she can continue to help kids.

But first, of course, she’s focused on school. And, she said earning the Dr. Carolyn Ghazal Dental Assistant Scholarship is a huge step in helping her remain driven and successful as a student.

“I live alone, and it’s really hard to afford school,” she said. “This is going to make a huge difference in allowing me to focus on classes and not worry quite as much about how I’m going to pay for school.”

Lydia admits to not having a lot of confidence in being able to earn the scholarship. When she applied, she did so with a “why not?” attitude, so it came as a shock when she learned (via a Zoom group call) that she had picked for the scholarship and mentorship program.

“I was ecstatic,” she said. “I was sitting there with my dog teary-eyed. I was really doubting myself. I thought it was going to be a group chat where they were going to let us down. So, I was shocked but really grateful. It reminded me that I really shouldn’t doubt myself.”

“Congratulations to Lydia for being selected, and thank you to PDSF for this wonderful honor for her. She is a hard-working student who truly deserves it, and we are very proud of her,” said Sandra Gracia, Executive Director at UEI College in Stockton.

Lydia said representatives with the Pacific Dental Services Foundation said they felt she was a bright and motivated student and they could see the passion she has for dentistry. Such comments, she said, only reinforce her belief that there was a greater power which helped her overcome all initial doubts she had about applying for the scholarship.

 “I’m really spiritual, and I truly believe God was telling me to apply for it,” she said.

“Congratulations to Lydia on being selected as a recipient of the Dr. Carolyn Ghazal Dental Assistant Scholarship.  It is a pleasure to support these dental assistant students as they pursue their career in the dental field. We aim to mold the next generation of servant-hearted dental assistant leaders and Lydia shows great passion for serving others,” said Kyle Guerin, Executive Director of the Pacific Dental Services Foundation.

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