Being a graduate of the Dental Hygiene Program at Laurel Ridge Community College sure is something to smile about!
2022 graduate Callie Reed had actually earned a degree in social work from James Madison University before enrolling in Laurel Ridge’s associate degree program.
“I decided to change to dental hygiene at Laurel Ridge because I felt that career path was a better fit for my passion and my work ethic,” she explained.
From Harrisonburg, Reed was in part inspired by her brother who was born with a cleft lip and palate. While at JMU, she took a dental assistant class and realized she had found her calling.
“I worked as a dental assistant,” she said. “I really liked the preventative aspect of it and how dental hygienists communicate with the patients.
“I love helping people with their smile. I think smiles are an important part of communication, and everyone wants a pretty smile. So, I love helping people keep their teeth clean and looking good. I also just love caring for people, and the mouth has a lot more to do with their overall health than people think. Preventing periodontal disease is so important.”
Laurel Ridge’s Dental Hygiene Program, which is a joint venture program with Virginia Western Community College in Roanoke, was convenient, affordable and has a great reputation, Reed said.
“The community has told me how well they reach out and do public health for everyone at our dental clinic,” she said. “The services are free, so we’re very involved in the community, and the instructors are very helpful and want you to succeed.
“The program is very hands-on with the lab. Sometimes we work on each other. We kind of get a little bit of a hybrid program of hands on and lecture, and everything that we learn we’re doing ourselves and our instructors are guiding us along the way.”
The classes are rigorous, according to Reed. Her favorite instructor was program director Lori Ellington.
“She’s very patient, always responsive when we have a question, and she really wants us to learn and to be the best dental hygienists that we can be,” said Reed, who had a new job lined up even before graduation. “Laurel Ridge has helped me with my entry into the real world, working with my career, as I’ve had the hands-on experience daily and have really learned. I feel equipped with everything that I need going forward.”
The median salary for a dental hygienist in the Winchester area is $80,760, with an hourly wage of $38.83, according to careeronestop.org, which is sponsored by the Virginia Department of Labor. Learn more about the program at laurelridge.edu/dental-hygiene.
Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.