Donnesha Evans had never heard of United Educational Institute (UEI).
She also hadn’t actively been pursuing an educational or career path when, last year, she first noticed a social media post that announced the opening of UEI’s new Las Vegas campus.
The post mentioned UEI was offering a Dental Assistant Training Program, a field Donnesha had longed to enter since she was a child. It also noted that students might be able to earn their high school diplomas while completing the program.
Having quit school at the age of 17 following the birth of her son, Donnesha recognized the opportunity in front of her. Even so, she admits that when she clicked on the post and filled out the online form – a move that soon led to her enrollment in UEI’s Dental Assistant program – she likely underestimated the extent to which things were about to change in her life.
In just nine months, she completed UEI’s Dental Assistant training program and became the first-ever student to graduate from the UEI Las Vegas campus, which opened in 2020.
Today, at the age of 19, Donnesha is already working as a full-time dental assistant at a local pediatric dentistry clinic.
“[Enrolling at UEI] started a path for me in life,” Donnesha said. “I was just at home with my son, and now I’m in a professional field, I like what I do, and I’m excited to grow within the dentistry field. I just really appreciate the school for helping me get this job.”
Getting Trained for the Real World
As a kid, Donnesha didn’t just love going to see the dentist – she wanted to one day become a dentist herself. This was a goal she took the first step towards reaching when she enrolled in UEI College Las Vegas in the fall of 2020.
“I had never heard of [UEI],” she said. “But, they were so welcoming. They were excited for me. [Visiting campus] was a pleasant experience, and I thought, ‘I like this. I’m going to sign up and actually do this.’”
Despite being just two years removed from her last experience with school, however, Donnesha said she was concerned she wouldn’t be able to adjust to life as a student. A self-described procrastinator, Donnesha felt juggling school and motherhood may prove too difficult.
“I was nervous and intimidated,” she said. “I thought I wasn’t going to be able to get the work done. When I came in and they were telling us what was needed to be done, I felt overwhelmed. But then my teacher laid out a schedule for us to follow, and she helped me make my schedule work.”
That instructor was Vanessa Davis, a person Donnesha credits for not only helping her absorb daily lessons, but who was always forthright about what would be expected of students once they reached the dentistry field.
“Ms. Davis was always persistent on what we need to do and what’s important when working in the dentist’s office, then putting that all to work,” she said. “She said when you start your extern, they’re not looking for people to just sit around. They want people who ask what needs to be done … people who are eager to help and learn.”
So, when Donnesha got to the externship portion of the program, that’s exactly what she did – she asked a lot of questions and was eager to jump in and help with whatever was needed. The approach, she said, left an impression that ultimately led to her hiring at the clinic.
“I’m doing everything I trained for,” she said. “And, they hired me immediately after my externship hours were over. I actually started as an employee immediately after I finished my hours.”
“From the first day as an extern, Donnesha had a great attitude and willingness to learn,” said Noemy Garcia, office manager at the clinic for which Donnesha works, Thunderbird Dental in Las Vegas. “She rapidly became an important part of our team, picking up all necessary skills quickly and efficiently, on top of which her work ethic is admirable. Patients are quite fond of her, as well. She has even been requested specifically from a parent that asked that she see their child for future appointments.”
Just the Start of Her Career Journey
Donnesha says the last few months have been a bit of a whirlwind in her life, but in the best possible way.
Along with completing the Las Vegas Dental Assistant program at UEI and earning a professional position at the age of 19, she realized she’d become a bit of a role model at the school for being the campus’s first graduate.
“Donnesha came to school with a purpose to be a Dental Assistant, and that is what she did,” said Christine Parisien, UEI Admissions Professional. “She was determined, motivated, diligent, hardworking and focused. And, she did all this while holding down a job and taking care of her family. I am so proud of her and her accomplishments!”
Donnesha was asked recently to come back to the campus and speak about her experiences to other Dental Assistant students, a request she was happy to accept. After all, she said she was given a ton of support from the school all throughout her educational journey.
“I don’t know the exact words to put it, but going in there and being the first one [to graduate] … everyone acknowledged it,” Donnesha said. “They noticed me, and they were excited and happy for me. It’s so surreal. Even when I first started there, people were cheering me on when I was signing things.”
The support continued all through the program, from Ms. Davis’s mentorship to her classmates getting together outside of class to both study and socialize.
Her greatest motivation, though, has been her young son. Because of him, Donnesha said she’s eager to continue following her dreams in the dental field. Next up: becoming a dental hygienist.
“After that, I think I still want to be a dentist,” she said. “I just want to keep taking steps to improve myself and my career.”