Precila Balabbo still keeps a video from her 2006 UEI College graduation ceremony.
Specifically, it’s a clip (which she has since posted on YouTube) of the moment she and one other student received the President’s Award from the school, an honor she still speaks of with great excitement.
“It made me so happy, and I’ve been very happy with my career ever since that day,” said Precila, who graduated with a diploma from the Dental Assistant Program at UEI College in Huntington Park. “I love UEI, by the way, and it’s hard to believe that I graduated and got that award over 10 years ago. It feels like it was six months ago.”
That’s because time tends to fly when you’re having fun – or in Precila’s case, when you’ve discovered your dream career.
Since her graduation day, Precila has worked full-time as a Registered Dental Assistant (RDA) for nearly 15 years. Then in 2020 – around the start of the COVID pandemic – she used this experience as a springboard toward starting her own business, a dental supply company based in San Pedro, CA.
Today, Precila is still licensed as an RDA, and she said her company, Global Dental Supply Company is continually growing. Yet after all this time, she still credits UEI College for giving her the training and confidence she needed to start down this professional path toward success.
“UEI gave me the opportunity to be who I am today by providing me the skills and knowledge to work in dentistry,” she said. “They laid the groundwork for me to grow and become whoever I wanted to be. I’m pretty excited and so proud I was able to graduate from UEI.”
Discovering Her Passion for Dentistry
Precila moved to the U.S. from the Philippines when she was in her early 20s. She arrived with a college diploma, having been trained to be a high school teacher back in her home country.
Now that she was in America, however, she realized she held no real passion for teaching. She knew she wanted to pursue a different career, but what?
A toothache would help her find an answer to that question.
“When I went to the dental office, I asked the assistant about what she does and how she got trained and educated for her job,” Precila said. “She told me about UEI, how they offer a dental assistant program, how long the program was, and so on.”
Precila said she’d enrolled in a dental hygienist school when she first arrived in the U.S., but she felt the program was too long and never fully bought into dentistry as a career. Learning she could complete the UEI Dental Assistant program in as few as 10 months was more appealing to her, however, so she decided to more fully explore the field and eventually enroll in the program.
“I was able to find out that dentistry was very interesting,” she said. “I found out that dentistry was a very exciting topic for me. I was able to get good grades, and I can still use the skills I learned back then. It gave me the opportunity to grow personally and professionally.”
Precila said she accepted her first job as a dental assistant immediately after graduating from UEI College. Six months after earning that position, she passed the exam to become a licensed RDA, a certification she’s maintained and worked under ever since.
Starting Her Own Supply Business
Priorities began to shift when the COVID-19 pandemic surged in the spring of 2020. As various services became limited, Precila chose to stop working for a time to help care for her mom, who is legally blind.
Not one to sit on her hands, however, Precila began to consider other career options within the dentistry field that could fill her down time. That’s when her mind wandered to dental supplies.
“I have experience and I know what products we use inside the office, from gloves and face masks to impressions … whatever an office needs to use,” she said. “I started researching who the suppliers are, started making contacts with offices and companies I know, and then I eventually started my own company.”
“By having the knowledge and skills within your career or the certifications that go with it,” she added, “you can use that platform and be able to apply it toward another career.”
Precila said her company’s continually grown over the last year and a half, allowing her to provide supplies to increasingly larger clinics and dental practices. The key to this success, she says, is positivity.
“I dream big and work hard,” she said. “Life is a continuous process, and if you always think positively, nothing can stop you.”
Earning a skill-based education, Precila added – an education like what she received 15 years ago at UEI College in Huntington Park – is also important. Sometimes, it’s all you really need to propel yourself toward the career you love.
“Whatever you love to do, you can do that,” she said. “You really don’t have to have a Bachelor’s degree or a Master’s or whatever. You just need to learn skills. If you have the skills, and the experience and confidence that come with it, nothing should stop you from what you want to do.”