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Carrington College Blog

How Dental Assisting Student, Jose Pena, Found Happiness by Brushing His Teeth

May 31, 2022

From elementary to high school, Jose Pena would take his toothbrush to school every day. At the risk of being made fun of, he ignored the teasing from classmates and showed from early age confidence that came from taking care of something he was very proud of: his beautiful set of strong teeth. He loved taking care of his teeth.

Jose didn’t know it then, but his love of brushing his teeth would help him through a difficult childhood to eventually land the career of his dreams. And it’s no surprise, once you get to know Jose, that he also found great pleasure in supporting and creating a family of his peers, helping his fellow classmates at Carrington to form study groups to focus and work together. How did Jose get this confidence, determination, and leadership ability? Here is his story.


Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m nineteen years old now. I come from a small family, the youngest of three siblings. I was born and raised in Las Cruces, New Mexico. My childhood was pretty rough; my parents struggled a lot. My mom was an alcoholic; she would try to get help but was always in some kind of recovery.  Finally, when I was 10 years old, she got a DUI with my brother in the car and was deported back to Chihuahua, Mexico – right when my Dad had been getting her immigration papers together! That meant Dad had to take care of us and always tried to be the best for us. He was a construction worker and had to balance the mom role as well, which he was successful at, and made me the person I am today. Soon after he moved us to Arizona to give us a better future.


Wow, that must have been pretty hard on all three of you.

It all has a lot to do with the person I am today. Being strong and being confident in the face of it was what we learned to be.


What in the world interested you in going to a dental assistant school?

Being brought up the way we were, we didn’t go to the dentist very much; Dad could never easily organize it. But when he did, it was like I discovered for the first time an environment where everyone was happy and enjoyed their work. I wanted to be happy like them.

But right out of high school, I wasn’t thinking about that; I was just digging out of my childhood. So I asked myself, “What kind of work would bring me joy?” And I remembered I was always happy in a dental office! Besides the fact, that I found taking care of my teeth always made me feel good about myself. When I talked to Dad about my plan, he remembered he had a friend who was a Dental Assistant years ago; and he approved of the idea.


How did you pick the Dental Assisting program at Carrington for your career education?

I had gathered information on a couple of schools; when I checked out the Dental Assisting program on Carrington’s website, everything looked appealing. So I called them up. I remember the enrollment rep – his name was Bryce Brose. He picked up on my confidence and how interested I was in Dental Assisting and offered to show me around the school. I was super hooked! I’m studying at the Glendale location, near Phoenix. It’s just been remodeled, with new rooms and everything.


When did you start school?

I began in August 2021 and I graduated in April 2022. At first, classes were online, but it’s much better now that I can go on campus (since I’m vaccinated). I love helping others in my class, I love making sure my peers are on track; we all do better.  I organize study sessions before exams.


You really are a naturally motivated leader.  What do you think is behind that?

I think organizing the peers in my class gives me a sense of family, especially since my family has struggled and my mother has been absent so much.  I learned helping others makes you feel good about yourself.


Was studying ever hard for you?

I honestly enjoyed everything so much. But there was a time – just in the last term – when my mother was sick in a hospital in Mexico. I went through a lot. It was the hardest time I had there. I couldn’t focus and lost my motivation to study. My professor, Michelle Campbell, noticed I was falling behind and asked me what was going on. I explained to her and she really helped me make it through. She helped me catch up with this gradual sense of support that kept me in line and gave me the motivation I needed to complete the coursework.


What can you tell a prospective student who is interested in going to Carrington how you succeeded in completing the Dental Assistanting program?

Don’t give up. Stay strong. Keep fighting through the tough times.  We all have to go through the bad days to get to the good days.


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