Years ago, Nando Estrada arrived from Guatemala seeking a better life for himself and his family. He gives much credit to the Cabrillo Dental Hygiene program for what he has achieved for his family. After graduating from the program, he attained financial stability – increasing his income from $16/hour to $55/hour – which has allowed him to help his mom and provided the opportunity for his wife to stop working and go back to school. But just as important, Nando "is doing something I love. My work increases patient's self-esteem and social lives. People start smiling again."
He decided upon the Cabrillo Dental Hygiene Program after meeting the staff at the student orientation. "It was the staff the made me choose the program since it was clear that they were there to help people and wanted people to succeed." Once in the program, he realized that he made the right decision.
Going through the program was the hardest thing I've done academically. But they helped all along the way." That help also included going out of their way to find needed financial resources.
Since becoming a hygienist Nando has found something suspicious in two patients' oral cavities. "They had no idea but now can keep an eye on it.
When I decided to go back to college, I was a 22 year old single mom with a two-year old daughter living in a converted garage. I was barely able to pay my bills and knew I wanted a better life. I always loved going to the dentist, so a career in dentistry appealed to me. During my time at Cabrillo I was blessed with excellent instructors who were invested in their students being excellent clinicians and preparing us for our future. I was able to buy a house within three years of graduation. I worked in private practice for 15 years, and now work at the Cabrillo Dental Hygiene program as an instructional assistant and I love being involved with the program. Throughout my career, being a Cabrillo graduate was highly regarded and sought after by prospective employers.
I am a clinical instructor for the Cabrillo College Dental Hygiene program and have been with Cabrillo College since 2018. I’ve been a practicing Registered Dental Hygienist for over 15 years and been a clinical instructor for over 10 years. During my two years in the program, I knew I wanted to come back to be a clinical instructor. An opportunity to come back to my alma matter knocked on my door, allowing me to work with the students in a setting that would be more closely to what private practice might be. I focus on teaching the DH students on what to expect in private practice. I enjoy teaching them and talking to them about what I have learned over the last 15 plus years that I have been out in private practice. It’s so gratifying when I run into former students - now colleagues - and they thank me for a certain thing that I helped them out with.
Ariel loves to put smiles on people’s faces – in fact, she thought about becoming a comedian. She’s found that her studies in Dental Hygiene are fulfilling her goal of putting a smile on someone’s face.
“Good dental hygiene improves everyone’s smiles and people leave feeling that they have a healthier and more confident smile,” says Ariel.
Ariel had applied at other schools but heard from a friend how great the program was at Cabrillo (and that you can see the ocean from the classrooms!) so she applied and was very “ecstatic” when she heard that she was accepted. She’s found the program challenging and greatly rewarding. She loves helping patients by instructing about good oral hygiene and how it’s tied to overall systemic health.
“I find it fulfilling to see my patients’ progress and how much their smile and oral hygiene habits have improved over time.”
Being in the dental hygiene program helped me prove that I could overcome any obstacles thrown at me. It has been the most challenging, yet rewarding, path I have experienced in my academic career, and I wouldn't change any part of that journey for the world. The program taught me how to better my social skills, how to challenge myself academically, and how to become the best medical professional I can be. Since graduating from the program, I have been working at a private practice in downtown San Francisco, and I was able to purchase my first home!
Since starting the Dental Hygiene Program at Cabrillo College I have grown as an individual because it has challenged me to perform at my fullest potential. I have gained knowledge, understanding, and friends in this program that will last a lifetime. Being half-way done, I am excited to continue this journey and fulfill my dream of becoming a Registered Dental Hygienist.