Making a Difference One Smile at a Time

Growing up with a single mom, Kyrsten Shoates was always taught the importance of a good education, but finding a program that could help her achieve her long-term goals was a different story.

“I got my associate but I didn’t know what to do with it,” she said. “I knew I wanted to be in the healthcare field but other than that, [my general associate degree] doesn’t add a dollar to my pay … I knew I wanted more and needed to gain more knowledge about what I like and could pursue for a career.”

Kyrsten said her grandmother always made sure she was placed in good public or private schools, and taught her to value her education.

After discovering the cost of a four-year degree, Kyrsten decided she didn’t want to take out any student loans to pay for school. She took a gap year and when she felt ready to go back, a quick online search led her to UEI College in Phoenix. Something about it drew her in. She was encouraged to consider the Dental Assistant program and decided to enroll.

Kyrsten never dreamed of being in the dental field in the past, but as she has gotten older and moved from New York to Arizona, she realized her true passion is in helping people. She was surprised to learn how she could do that through the dental field.

“I look at it now as something very beneficial to my life and my family’s,” she said. “They don’t really know in-depth about oral care and how it should be, and what really keeps you healthy, and how much the mouth is connected to the body and the mind. I liked having that influence in my family.”

The atmosphere at UEI in Phoenix was a great fit for Kyrsten. She made friends in her classes, did well in her program, and even started working at the school.

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 “She always had this energy about her,” said Joshua Chase, student services coordinator at the Phoenix campus. “Very bubbly, really nice personality, willing to help everyone else, always willing to support people on campus. She sometimes acted like a staff member, and she was because she was a student worker, but she was a student as well.”

“Kyrsten was an eager student, always willing to go over and beyond as a student,” said Lanisa Hudson, Kyrsten’s instructor. “She showed excitement in every module that was taught and always wanted to be the best she could be.” 

That willingness to help stems from her childhood, Kyrsten said. Her family was never homeless, but they did move around a lot, often staying with family. As she has pursued a career, she has dreams of building multiple streams of income to be financially secure and able to help others. Becoming a dental assistant is just the first step.

“There are so many struggles in America and opportunities where we can help people,” she said. “I’m not at that point right now, but I want to be. There is so much more to life than just taking care of myself.”

At the end of her program, Kyrsten was hired through her externship, and was able to become a travelling dental assistant. While holding down that job, she has already applied to real estate school.

At Phoenix’s October 2022 graduation ceremony, Kyrsten was recognized as the valedictorian of her class.

“We all possess powers that we have control over that will pave the path we desire. We just have to find them,” she said during the ceremony. “Never give up on yourself and accept change because it is inevitable. Expect and accept to learn and re-learn, and you’ll always succeed with whatever you put your mind to. Continue to thrive and level up.”

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