Graduate Spotlight – Meet Julie Ann Ernst

Julie-Ann-Ernst-GraduateJulie Ann Ernst is a two-time graduate of Carrington College California. In 2006 she graduated from the Dental Assisting program at our Citrus Heights campus, and just last week she graduated with an Associate of Science degree in Dental Hygiene from our Sacramento campus.

Julie’s first taste of college after high school didn’t last too long. She took on a lot at the age of 18, and it soon became clear that she had indeed taken on too much. A few years later with a little more maturity, Julie decided it was time to give college another go – and this time she chose Carrington.

I went to a junior college after high school in 2003, but I had to drop out. I adopted a little girl when I was 18; I thought I could work, go to school and be a mom – but I soon realized I couldn’t do all three.

When I first came to Carrington in 2006 I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I met with a representative and we established that I had a love for people and communication. He told me about the Dental Assisting program; it seemed like it would be a great fit.

Julie didn’t know much about dentistry; but as she worked through the program she learned more about hygiene and realized that would become her next career goal. She graduated in 2006, got her license, and worked as a Registered Dental Assistant for several years before deciding to pursue that goal.

I went through a bad relationship; after we separated I knew that I needed to do something more to be able to give my children a better life. A life they deserve. I knew this was my time. To get the prerequisites needed for the Dental Hygiene program I enrolled in the program at the Sacramento campus in October 2010. I finished in February 2012, and started Dental Hygiene classes in May.

Obviously Julie knew all about Carrington from her previous experience at the Citrus Heights campus, but she chose to come back to our school for a different reason.

The main reason I chose Carrington again was that I wanted to be done with school by the time I was 30. The fact that it was an accelerated program really appealed to me because I could be done so much faster. There’s a lot more work all at one time, it’s full-time Tuesday through Friday, 8am to 5pm every day, but I could get done and be out sooner. I just turned 29, so I’m really happy to have met my goal.

In the first term of Dental Hygiene there are eight classes a week – I’ll admit I wasn’t the most organized person back then, but can you imagine? I thought I knew how to study because of the previous program, but I obviously didn’t; it was so much tougher than that.

Julie’s time at the Sacramento campus was a truly positive, life-changing experience for her; she feels that she has changed dramatically in the past couple of years.

I’ve learned so much from the teachers at the Sacramento campus. I didn’t know that I could excel, and just learn so much about myself in the process. When I started I didn’t have any self-esteem; I knew I could persevere through any challenge because I’d been through a lot of challenges, but I didn’t know how strong I could actually be.

I’ve learned to not let people take advantage of me, not to let them walk all over me, I’ve learned to say ‘no’. I’ve learned my own boundaries, and that I can push those boundaries to go even further. It’s just really been an amazing adventure for me.

Julie has had to overcome some personal issues too during her time at Carrington, including an undiagnosed learning disorder that made her first term particularly hard.

A lot of my success is down to the teachers, and what they put in to make sure that I followed through on my dreams. I’ve always been determined, but that first term was tough. I’ve always had a harder time learning; I never understood why I had to read it, then write it, and listen to it…go through all these different ways of learning something when someone else could read something once, know it, and never forget it. I never understood why it was harder for me.

Julie realized that she may have a learning disorder. If she could get medical verification, then she may be allowed more time on tests and so on. Julie also suffers from severe test anxiety. She would literally get sick with nerves prior to a test.

I didn’t have the money to get tested, the teachers just helped me as much as they could, while being fair to everyone else. They would give me pep talks; telling me that I know this information, and if they were to ask me without all this paper in a test situation, then I would get it right. The Student Success Center, the teachers, my cohorts, everybody worked so hard to help me through my test anxiety and my learning difficulties. They helped me learn how to take tests, and how to study in general.

They say that ‘strength comes from adversity’, so Julie took her struggles and used them as her motivation to improve and succeed. She became a Student Ambassador and sat on the Student Advisory Committee where she helped with a number of positive changes for the student community.

That first term was unbelievably hard. I barely passed, I almost didn’t make it to the second term. It was a wake-up call for me. I decided that either I figure this out or I won’t accomplish my dream. I didn’t celebrate completing that first term with my classmates because I didn’t feel worthy of it – I hadn’t given my best. From that point on, I just put my foot down and said I’m going to do better – I’m going to excel. And I did. Every term I accomplished more than the term before.

Julie made some really strong bonds with her classmates during her time at Carrington; friendships that she knows will endure for years.

We all worked together to help each other; I’ve definitely made some life-long friendships.

So having taken her board exams and having enjoyed her graduation ceremony just last week, Julie’s now focused on the job hunt. We asked her about her job search, and where she’d like to be in three years.

I’m going to volunteer at different offices first – try to get my foot in the door. Then once my license number hits I’m going to pound the pavement and hand out my resumes personally. That’s the plan.

In three years I hope to be in an established office, and also doing some community work to help under-privileged children. We’ve done a lot of community outreach at Carrington and I’ve been really touched by the children we help educate in oral hygiene. So that’s a career goal for me – to work in community health. I want to be working three or four days a week, I’d like to be enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program in Community Oral Health. I also want to earn a master’s degree, but that’s more than three years out.

It’s clear that Julie got a lot out of her time at Carrington College California, so we asked her what she would like to share from her experience.

You not only grow academically, you grow personally as well. Overall I’ve just excelled in every area of my life; I learned so much from the instructors and staff because they give so much to their students – they did to me at least.

I would tell anyone thinking about going to Carrington to not hold anything back. Don’t think you’re not good enough, and that you’ll never make it through – because you are and you will. There are so many people there to help you. Don’t be the kid in the class with a question, but afraid to ask it…because you’ll never learn. Reach out to the systems and people that are there to help you. Sometimes you have to put yourself out there if you want to succeed. I’m actually so sad to be leaving that I’ve been crying!

Julie has a 4-year old boy and a 10-year old girl and is engaged to “a wonderful man” Thomas, they plan to get married in June next year. Good luck to you Julie, and congratulations on all your success!

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