Q&A with Dental Hygiene Student Yelena Ruppel
Please tell us a little about yourself.
I’ve got five kiddos and I’m in school full-time. I’m currently not working because that’s too much for me. I can only handle so much! I had a couple of things that happened in my life that made me want to go back to school. Four years ago, unfortunately, my husband passed away, and that kind of turned my life around. Because of tragic news and life circumstances, I had an opportunity to go back to school. Dental Hygiene has always been my lifelong dream that I didn’t accomplish when I was out of high school. I thought, ‘I have the opportunity—why not go back and finish what I’ve wanted to do for a long time?’ Here I am, four years later!
Do you have experience in the dental field?
I started the Dental Hygiene program in April but I’ve been in the dental field for over 21 years. It’s been a long journey for me. I went to American River College during high school and started some prerequisites for dental hygiene. I was hired as a dental assistant where I did my externship. I did that for a while and then when they needed someone for the front office, I got into that. I would go back and forth between assisting and working in the front office. I got so much experience that I became the practice manager. Because of my whole life situation with kids, managing became too much, so I decided to go back to just assisting. I got my RDA license in 2006. I didn’t really have time to go back to school then. I guess that I didn’t really think that I needed to. In the back of my mind, maybe I was thinking when the kids are older I can go back to school. But now that things have happened in my life with my husband passing, I have no one else to take care of me and the financial part of my life would be better if I just finished dental hygiene as I planned a while ago.
What motivated you to choose Carrington?
I was looking at a few different options for getting my education. I was looking at community college and looking at Carrington. I realized that I would be done at Carrington twice as fast as the community college. So, I went through the program and I realized how good the program is and how well they prepare students for being professionals and doing the registered dental assistant exam, which is hard. The students get a lot of education and knowledge that they need to be prepared for that exam.
What was your favorite part of your program at Carrington?
I love the clinic days. We are at that term where we are hands-on and we see patients. It’s a different experience than just talking about it. This is real, where you kind of already know a little bit—you don’t know all of it—but you have some knowledge so you know what to do and how to do it. And, of course, all the instructors are there for support. I love those clinic days. They are a lot of fun.
What is the most challenging part of your program?
The most challenging part of the program for me is time management. I have to make sure I give myself enough time to study because we do have a lot of quizzes, tests, and different assignments.
What has helped you get through the challenging times?
First, I think about my kids. They are the ones who keep me going. There were lots of times I got so overwhelmed that I just wanted to quit. But then I think about them. They will benefit from me getting this career. I will be able to provide much more for them than I can right now. They are the ones who keep me going. Then my mom is my biggest supporter. She will see me on my days when I have my biggest doubts. I have a lot of people who believe in me.
Is there a Carrington instructor or staff member who you would like to acknowledge?
Oh wow, that’s challenging because I like everybody! I can’t point out anybody specifically. I really like all the professors there. I really can’t pick out someone specifically because I have had a little experience with all of them and I have had good experiences. If you want to ask something, they will never make you feel awkward and are always happy to help. They’ve never said to me, “Oh, you have over twenty years of experience, why don’t you know this?”
Do you feel like your experience makes you play a different role from your classmates?
No, I wouldn’t say that because we have a lot of students who are already experienced. There are a few who don’t have any experience. I feel like now we are all at the same level. Also, there are always new ways to learn how to do things. I like to learn new and different ways because maybe a new way would be more helpful for me than the way that I already know it. My friend who graduated from Carrington years ago told me, ‘don’t go into the program thinking you already know everything because of your experience.’ She said a lot of the information is going to be very good and helpful—make sure you get that information.
Do you have any advice for people interested in going into your field?
If you have a big dream, like me with this, go for it. If you want to accomplish something, you have to do something to get there. It’s not, ‘oh I want to do this but I’m not going to do anything.’ If you want to achieve something or be somebody, you have to put effort into it. When we had the orientation—not for dental hygiene, but for the prerequisites course—they were telling us the classes we were going to take. I was scared because I would have to take chemistry and science. I’m not the biggest fan of them, but at the same time, I knew I had to do them to get to dental hygiene. They finally came along, I followed along, and passed. It is important to believe in ourselves.