A teen mom who dropped out of high school more than two decades ago, Jeneice Baisdon had long wanted to go back and earn her high school diploma or GED. But, as is prone to happen, motherhood and work often got in the way.
So, when the hotel that employed her closed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Jeneice vowed to not let this opportunity go to waste. With just a few credits to go, she channeled all of her focus toward studies and tests, which allowed Jeneice to finally earn her high school diploma.
“After that, I thought, ‘Why wait?’” she said. “I’d built this momentum and I didn’t want to stop. I needed some sort of career. I wanted to go full force and do something with myself and not just stop with my high school diploma. I wanted something to be proud of, for myself as well as my kids.”
Today, not only is she a graduate from the program, but she’s working full-time as a dental assistant at a clinic in Oakhurst, CA. And soon, she plans to take her Registered Dental Assistant (RDA) exam.
“I feel a huge sense of accomplishment right now,” Jeneice said. “I honestly love what I’m doing and where I’m at. I couldn’t be happier.”
Motivated by Pandemic Job Loss
Jeneice gave birth to her first child when she was just 15 years old. While she said she tried to juggle motherhood and school, it was just too much for her at the time. So, she entered the workforce.
The years that ensued included lots of experience in the fast food sector, including a five-year stint as a restaurant manager. She had moved on to working at a local hotel when the pandemic hit. It was then, during the spring of 2020, when she decided to take a hard look at changing the trajectory of her career.
“I just really got tired of doing that whole scenario — of bouncing around and doing jobs like that,” Jeneice said. “I wanted to do better and have a real career.”
At the time, Jeneice had always wanted to be a nurse. But, as someone with three grown kids and two younger children (3 and 5), she felt she needed something that offered more standard hours. That’s when a friend suggested she look into the dentistry field.
“My friend is a hygienist, and she’s just awesome,” Jeneice said. “She was in the dental field as a dental assistant for 10 years before going to hygienist school, and she told me you have to start somewhere.”
So, when Jeneice first reached out to UEI College, their Dental Assistant program was one aspect that stood out to her. Another benefit, she said, was that she could graduate within a year of starting school.
“I needed something faster — something that wouldn’t take forever,” she said. “[A slower program] might have pushed me from my goals. I liked the fact that UEI offered a 10-month program. That was totally for me, especially when you have little kids and you’re trying to get somewhere fast.”
From Extern to Hire
When Jeneice started classes at UEI, many of them were being taught online due to the pandemic. While that was difficult at first, Jeneice said it forced her to really buckle down and focus on the material.
“I feel I may have learned more because I really had to do my research and look into the books,” she said. “I’m a very hands-on person, so it worked out well toward the end when I got to come in and complete all my labs.”
Jeneice credits her instructor, Janet Gutierrez, for being a tremendous help to her while she was progressing through the program.
“I could never have made it through if it wasn’t for [Janet],” she said. “She was so helpful, and even now, to this day, she’s kept in touch with me and checks in on me and told me that if I ever need anything, I can always reach out to her.”
“It was a pleasure working with Jeneice. There was no doubt in my mind that she would excel in her educational endeavors and beyond. She has been a stellar example of what perseverance, hard work, and determination can accomplish. I wish her all the best as she begins her dental career,” Janet said.
Jeneice is currently employed at the same clinic where she completed her externship. She works a Monday-through-Thursday schedule that allows her to make a good living while still spending plenty of quality time with her family and young children.
As for her older children, Jeneice said they’re incredibly proud of how far she’s come since they were younger.
“They’ve seen me basically from having all those dead-end jobs to arriving where I am now,” she said. “They know how much I struggled to do anything when they were growing up. I’m just glad I was able to do something like this and show them that all is reachable and possible.”