Graduate Spotlight – Meet Andrea Torres
Born & raised in Bosque Farms, a community just south of Albuquerque, NM, Andrea is a single mom to Xavier, her 11 year old son. We spoke to Andrea back in January, just after she graduated.
Carrington College was Andrea’s first taste of college; after graduating high school in 1997 she literally went straight to work…And we mean immediately! She graduated high school on a Friday and started work for the City of Albuquerque the following Monday.
“My mom worked for the city so it was just a summer program originally. But the lady I worked for kept me on as long as she could, but then I applied for a job with the Albuquerque police department. I worked in the Records department for about 12.5 years as a Records Technician.”
As much as she enjoyed the job, after a dozen or so years Andrea decided that the time was right for her to move on; she wanted to do something different with her life so she started to investigate going back to school.
Andrea had driven by the Carrington campus in Albuquerque numerous times, and she knew a couple of people who had attended the school in the past. So she decided to take a tour with her mom; although she had visited a number of schools, as soon as she came in to Carrington College it felt right.
“We both really liked it; I remember turning to my mom during the tour and saying ‘I think this is going to be the place!’ It just seemed right the minute I walked into the campus; everybody was so nice, friendly and helpful. They seemed eager to have me join the school; I had other colleges that wouldn’t return my phone calls or that ignored me when I visited campus. I really liked it at Carrington, so I signed up pretty much right away.”
After working in a records department, Andrea wanted a job that would give her more satisfaction; a job where she felt she was helping others.
“At the police department I sat at a desk all day and pushed paper around; I couldn’t see any more advancement and I didn’t really get to interact with people. I wanted a different career where I would feel like I was helping people; I really liked the dental program so that’s what I chose. I also wanted a program that could get me into a new career quickly as I have a son to support. I liked the fact that the Dental Assisting program could have me ready for a dental career in only 9 months.”
Andrea recognizes that she was very fortunate to have the support of her parents during this transitional period in her life; otherwise it would have been very difficult for her to quit her job to go back to school. Her main concern was financial; how was she going to be able to support herself and her son?
“Thank god for my parents; my son and I moved back with my mom and she took care of us while I went to school. My mom was so great; she said that they would take care of us while I went back to school. By the time I got back from class, my son was home, and she would have him doing his homework and already have dinner made. I had such great support from all my family; they really encouraged me.”
Even though Andrea had not planned on enrolling in a Dental Assisting program when she first started visiting schools, now that she has graduated she has absolutely no regrets about the direction she took.
“You know I think I’ve always been kind of interested in dental; I was always on my son’s case – ‘Did you floss? Have you brushed?’ And it turns out that it was absolutely the right choice; I loved the program.
The externship site I worked at was great – Community Dental in Albuquerque. I loved it there; in fact I’m going to volunteer a couple of days a week until a position opens up. They really want me to work there, but nothing is available at the moment. Rumor has it that there will be something opening soon! The people there are so helpful, friendly and patient. They showed me everything I needed to know and really helped me out.”
Andrea has learned a lot in the last nine or ten months, but the biggest thing she discovered is that if you want something, you have to go for it; you have to make that leap if you want to better your life.
“It’s never too late to jump into a new career; if you really want it you just have to go out there and get it. My concern was that ‘oh my gosh I just quit a good job that I’ve been at for 12 years and I’m starting fresh. Is this the right choice? Is this something I should have done?’ But I was excited to start, to jump in and start something new.”
Now that she has graduated, we asked Andrea to look back on her time at Carrington and consider whether the school had delivered on what she was told when she took the tour almost a year before.
“Absolutely. The instructors are great, they give you a lot of hands-on experience. I want to say a special thank you to Ms. Greer; she is an amazing instructor and never hesitated to help or go over and over something with me until I understood it. The instructors really care about their students, finding placements and helping us achieve the goals that we are there for.
The facility is really nice too; we spent two hours a day in lab, and two hours in lectures. Our lab had a number of dental chairs, an x-ray machine with a mannequin that we could practice on; we could take dental impressions, pour models…you pretty much get to do everything you would do in a real dental office.”
So as she sits tight hoping for an opportunity to come up at Community Dental, we asked Andrea about her longer term career plans.
“I’d like to go back to school to study to become a Hygienist, so that’s a possibility; if it happens that would be great but if it doesn’t then I’m happy, as there is always room for advancement as a Dental Assistant. I wouldn’t want to be a Dentist though; I don’t want to be in the mouth that much… I just like helping! Maybe if I was younger I might consider it, but I really don’t want to go back to school for that many years.”
As Andrea starts out on her new career, she has some advice for those of you thinking about going back to school who haven’t yet made the leap.
“If you want it, take the jump and go for it. It’s never too late. Don’t be afraid to start something new. I wish I’d done this a few years ago when I first thought about it.”
Thank you for taking the time to talk with us Andrea; congratulations on your graduation and for being brave enough to take the jump from a stable job that wasn’t satisfying you into a brand new career. (And thanks to your mom for her support of you!)
For comprehensive consumer information on our Dental Assisting program, please visit carrington.edu/degrees/dental-assisting