Laura McBride was selected for a $5,000 scholarship and mentoring program from the Pacific Dental Services Foundation
When Laura McBride first came to UEI College in Oceanside, she was seeking to put a life of turmoil behind her. As a young teenager, it was largely the negative influence of peers that led her astray— although she is quick to point out that she takes full responsibility for her choices.
“I come from a good family, but I made a lot of mistakes. I went onto the wrong path with the wrong crowd and started abusing drugs,” she said. Through her downward spiral she got in trouble with the law and dropped out of school. At one point, in which she describes as her rock bottom, Laura was homeless, unemployed, pregnant and suicidal.
“I had no hope and direction in life. I wanted a different life but didn’t know how to get out of where I was,” she said. It was then that Laura leaned deeply into her Christian faith to help her take control of her life, and reach deep inside herself for motivation.
Now 33-years-old, married and a mother, Laura found work cleaning houses and was no longer homeless. She had beaten the demons of her youth and now longed to build a better future for her family.
“I wanted to do something that I love. I wanted my kids to be proud and see me as a good example,” she said. “But I didn’t have a high school diploma. Until I walked into UEI College, I wasn’t sure what to do.”
Finding a Second Chance at UEI College
“A career in the dental field had always been something that I was interested in as a kid and my mom encouraged me to think about it back before I started getting into trouble. It is a respectable career, but now at my age, I wasn’t sure how I could accomplish that,” Laura said. “I thought it would take years of college but after visiting UEI, I knew this was my calling.”
Laura enrolled in the Dental Assistant Training Program and began working towards her high school diploma through UEI’s Eligible Career Pathway Program, which gives students the opportunity to earn a high school diploma through UEI’s high school education partner while at the same time completing career training.
“Laura came to UEI determined to succeed. That self-motivation, and her willingness to actually do the hard work, were great to see. She has really done well as a student,” said Donovan Pati, Professional Admissions Representative.
“Laura is a very eager student ready for any situation. She has shown so much improvement over these last several months,” said DA Instructor Melissa Griffie. “She comes to class ready to learn and help others. Laura definitely doesn’t allow her past to hold her back. I look forward to seeing her grow and become a successful dental assistant.”
“I never thought at my age I would get an opportunity like this, so that’s why I take school so seriously. It’s such a blessing to be at UEI. The people here really care about you and helping you with a career, but also with life in general. I want to be the best I can be. I love school – I never thought I’d say that, but I love UEI,” Laura said.
A Scholarship to Smile About
At the encouragement of her instructor, Laura attended a webinar hosted by the Pacific Dental Services Foundation (PDSF), where she learned about what PDSF does and a scholarship program that they offer. Recognizing the importance of dental assistants to the future of dentistry, PDSF 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 PDSF has given over $600,000 in scholarships to DA students, including several from UEI College.
“The scholarship provides students with financial 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.”
When Laura heard about the scholarship, she decided to apply. But, in order to do so, she would have first have to earn her high school diploma.
“I was so motivated to apply for the scholarship that I worked non-stop to finish the high school program,” she said, completing just a few days before the scholarship application deadline.
“Of course the financial support is a huge help, but the mentoring program is fantastic too, and I was really drawn by what PDSF is all about. Its mission and all of the good they do. I loved hearing about the service trips abroad and would love to participate one day,” Laura said.
Through partnerships with dental schools and non-governmental organizations in Guatemala, Fiji and Ethiopia, the Foundation has been able to support these local communities through mentorship and hands on treatment also providing equipment and supplies to these rural areas.
Laura learned that she was a finalist for the Dr. Carolyn Ghazal Dental Assistant and was interviewed by the scholarship committee. Then, when one of the committee members contacted her and requested that she join a Zoom call with 21 other finalists, she wasn’t sure what to think.
“I was nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. But when it was announced that all of us on the call would receive the scholarship I could not stop crying. I felt so overwhelmed in a good way, walking on clouds that day,” Laura said.
“Just to be called and do the interview was a huge honor for me. I will be forever grateful for giving me this opportunity. I thank the Foundation from the bottom of my heart for believing in me,” Laura said.
“Congratulations to Laura on being selected as a recipient of the Pacific Dental Services Foundation Dr. Carolyn Ghazal Dental Assistant Scholarship! Laura is a driven student who is dedicated and passionate about serving others. We look forward to watching these scholarship recipients grow in their careers as they positively impact the lives of patients,” said Kyle Guerin, Executive Director of the Pacific Dental Services Foundation.
“Laura’s desire to change the trajectory of her life through career education is an example of why we continue to be inspired to help provide career paths for our students at UEI College. She is truly dedicated to obtaining a new career and I know she’ll do well,” said Alex Poyuzina, UEI Oceanside Campus President.