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Carrington College Blog

Graduate Spotlight – Meet Holly Bell

August 6, 2012

Holly BellHolly, a recent graduate of the Dental Assisting program at our Citrus Heights campus, took a little while to find a career direction. But now she has discovered her passion, there is no stopping her!

Holly, aged 28, was born and raised in San Luis Obispo, CA. After graduating High School in 2002, she studied Criminal Justice for a year, but really didn’t think college was for her. Holly believed she could make it just fine in life without a college education, so she stopped going to school and continued with her job as a cashier and cook in a restaurant and nightclub.

In 2004 Holly decided that she needed to go back to school, so she gave Criminal Justice another chance, this time at a different college in San Luis Obispo.

“At that time I wanted to work in law enforcement, but I didn’t know what direction I wanted to take. The first time I went to school I didn’t take college seriously because I didn’t think I needed it. When I went back I really wanted to get my associate’s degree in Criminal Justice. But even though I regularly met with counselors and advisors, I didn’t get any guidance in the courses I should or shouldn’t take to meet my goal. It turns out that a lot of classes I took were for nothing… and I felt completely lost.”

Totally disillusioned with college, Holly decided that she was going to do something that she’d always wanted to do, but hadn’t quite found the courage to follow through on before.

“When I couldn’t get direction from college I decided that I would do something for myself, something that I’d had an interest in since High School; I signed  up for the military. I joined the Air Force, finished all my testing, got my ship-out date, and then 2 months later I found out that I was pregnant. I figured that was God’s way of telling me I shouldn’t be in the military.”

3 months after her daughter Iraya was born in 2007, Holly went to work as a Teller at a local bank. Having her daughter gave Holly a new focus, and understandably parenthood changed her priorities.

“I didn’t want to go back to the criminal justice field because I didn’t want to put myself in any high risk positions. At that point I was a single mom, and the whole way I looked at life changed. I thought to myself – ‘Oh my gosh, I did all that schooling for nothing because now I have no idea what I want to do.’ “

After 8 months in her new job Holly developed a wrist condition that would require surgery, but the bank wasn’t prepared to hold her position until she recovered. However, as with many things in life, this negative event actually turned into a positive opportunity.

“I was off work for 3 months and was completely freaking out, thinking how am I going to afford my bills…my daughter – I couldn’t do it. But it was a huge blessing in disguise! The surgeon that did my surgery was losing her office manager on maternity leave, and her assistant was leaving for school. She was left with nobody so she asked me ‘Do you need a job?’ – I was like ‘yes, you kind of lost me my job!’ “

So with on-the-job training from the surgeon, Holly ‘fell’ into health care working as a Medical Assistant; a position she held and enjoyed from 2008 to 2011.

“My boss, the surgeon, was very encouraging; she kept telling me that I wouldn’t fulfill my potential as a Medical Assistant. She knew I could do more, and encouraged me to think about going back to school because she said as much as she would hate to lose me, I was worth more than she could give.”

So with the encouragement of her boss ringing in her ears, Holly made the big decision to quit her job and move to Sacramento in June 2011. She stayed with family while she went back to school, she was planning on studying nursing.

“When I moved here I decided I was going to start my life over, I decided that college was going to be different this time. I was going to ask questions and not let anything stand in my way. Nobody in my family has a college education, and it’s really important to me that someone gets it; I wanted that person to be me. I wanted to be a good example for my daughter to continue on with school. How am I going to encourage her when she’s older if I didn’t do it myself? I didn’t want to be a hypocrite.”

Holly was set up to study nursing at a Junior College in Sacramento, but someone mentioned Carrington College California to her. She thought it was worth coming in for a conversation. Holly met with an Enrollment Services Representative; they talked through her priorities in life outside of school, and all of the program options that were available to her. The Nursing program has a pretty demanding schedule, and with her daughter a priority and her desire for more children, Holly started to rethink her plan.

“I wanted a career path that could match my other priorities in life; through talking with the Advisor I decided that nursing may not be the best choice for me. She suggested Dental Assisting; I never in a million years thought that I would choose dental! I’ve always had a fear of dentists, to the extent that I used to take medication before an appointment to calm my anxiety! So I said to myself, I’m in a new area, this is a new chapter in my life, I’m going to give it a try. What have I got to lose!”

Much to her own surprise Holly fell in love with dental assisting within that first week; she felt a real connection with people which she attributed to her own fears because she could relate to patients and their anxieties. Holly really enjoyed her 11 months at Carrington, and aside from the technical skills, she learned another valuable lesson.

“I learned that I needed to have more confidence in myself and what I know. I’ve always lacked confidence because I was never encouraged much in my life. But having passion in the subject, and the support of positive role models at Carrington taught me to come out of my shell. I feel that I know what I’m talking about, I’m not second guessing myself anymore! I never had that before. I also discovered that going to school in a positive environment like Carrington can only encourage and excite you.”

Holly currently works part-time at the dental office where she completed her Carrington externship, but she’s excited to start a full-time job elsewhere later in August.

“Once I become a Registered Dental Assistant* and get my license (I take my Boards this month), I have a job set up with a big pediatric dental office. As soon as I have my license they want me to start. I’ve always wanted to work with children, so that will be perfect for me.”

Holly is looking to continue her education at Carrington later this year, hoping to start an associate degree in Dental Assisting by October. The next couple of months will be spent settling into her new job and new home with long-term boyfriend (almost fiancée!) Thomas.

After an eventful 10 years, Holly finally found her professional passion in a career that will help her build a better future for her daughter and family. Her words of advice for other students considering college:

“Put yourself into a positive environment where people are willing to help. Let other people help you, and realize that you’re not perfect! Ask every single question that comes into your head, because the worst someone can say is ‘no’. And if that’s the worst, then you can deal with it and find an alternate route to your goal. At Carrington I didn’t feel like a cow herded in and out of a classroom – they are there to help you find your way and to help you be successful. The only failure you can have is by not putting yourself out there, by not pushing yourself.”

Thanks for your time Holly; good luck with the new job and we hope to welcome you back in October!


*Carrington College California prepares students to take appropriate certification and licensure exams related to their individual majors.  The College does not guarantee students will successfully pass these exams or be certified or licensed as a result of completing the program.

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