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Rio Salado Celebrates Class of 2021 Dental Hygiene Graduates

Dental Pinning Ceremony 2021 Dental Pinning Ceremony 2021 Dental Pinning Ceremony 2021

Rio Salado Celebrates Class of 2021 Dental Hygiene Graduates 

Rio Salado’s 23rd graduating class of dental hygienists celebrated their accomplishments this month among a small group of friends and family at an outdoor pinning ceremony.

The 20 graduates completed the dental hygiene program and are now ready to take their licensure exams and enter the workforce. The students earned their Associate in Applied Science degree after finishing the 15-month hands-on program.

"I listened to a TED talk once, which defined grit as the most necessary quality for success, a mix of perseverance and passion to achieve long term goals," Jane Fuqua, the Class of 2021 student speaker, told her classmates during the ceremony. "So I suppose today is our evidence, we all have it, and have relied heavily on it to reach this moment, because today means we are here, despite the challenges, despite 2020 and then 2021. All of us giving sometimes too much to make it to this finish line. I think what made this cohort special, what made me so grateful to be part of this class specifically, was that despite everything there was unwavering support."

The ceremony included speeches, award presentations and the celebratory pinning and oath of the dental hygiene graduates. Among the highlights:

  • Graduate Michelle Heilig received the Colgate Student Total Achievement Recognition (S.T.A.R.) Award  “for compassion in patient care, enthusiasm for community service and dedication to and employment of the profession of Dental Hygiene.”
  • Graduate Cassandra Senesac accepted the Hu-Friedy Golden Scaler Award “in recognition of a Dental Hygiene Student who has consistently demonstrated high achievement and outstanding clinical performance throughout the Dental Hygiene Program.”
  • Graduate Alyssa Johnson received the Western Society of Periodontology award for exceptional graduates who have shown a special interest and proficiency in the field of periodontics.

Students started the program amid the global pandemic, and a bit of uncertainty. The students took on the endeavor, working hard every step of the way, said Heather Johnson, a dental hygiene adjunct instructor for Rio Salado selected by the graduates to present an address during their ceremony.

“It is a blessing to be a dental hygienist,” Johnson told the students. “It is also a blessing to be a healthcare provider. Each day we can make a positive difference in people’s lives.”

The Associate in Applied Science (AAS) in Dental Hygiene degree prepares students to become primary care oral health professionals. The program offers a rigorous, intensive, science-based curriculum, one that prepares students for work and future education should they decide to pursue a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree. 

“The best part of the program was being surrounded by amazing classmates and getting to know them and create a bond,” said Anthony Martinez, another member of the graduating class. “My sister is a dentist and influenced me to pursue becoming a dental hygienist. I also wanted to do something that had flexibility. Upon starting the program, I realized I loved what I was doing.”

Congratulations to all the dental hygiene graduates and best wishes on your next steps, wherever they may take you.

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