Kaelin Shaker – Associate in Applied Science Degree
For many college students, completing all the requirements for a rigorous academic program is a challenge. But for Mesa Community College dental hygiene student Kaelin Shaker, 25, it was especially challenging—she had a baby halfway through the program.
Shaker, an Honors Program student, graduates in May with an Associate in Applied Science degree and is eligible to take the written and clinical exams necessary to obtain a license in Dental Hygiene. She plans to transfer to Northern Arizona University’s dental hygiene completion program.
She said the support she received from classmates, faculty, her husband and her parents enabled her to finish her degree on time.
“My pregnancy was fairly easy, but I still experienced a lot of fatigue and some nausea, and my recovery was a lot more difficult than usual,” Shaker said. “But I knew that I was going to graduate, so it didn't stop me from working hard. Having a cute baby pining for your attention definitely made studying and getting homework done more difficult, but it's totally doable.”
Shaker knew from an early age that she wanted to work in health care, specifically dental hygiene.
“I asked my hygienist what she liked about her job, and she told me that in addition to the relationships she has with her patients and her coworkers, that once you are established, you can set your own schedule, which worked well for her when she had young kids,” said Shaker, a Mesa resident. “After that, I decided that dental hygiene was what I wanted to do. Right after high school, I started working on my prerequisites for the program and got a job working front desk at a dental office, which just made me more excited to start my career as a hygienist.”
Shaker said she loved attending MCC and took many of her classes at the Red Mountain Campus.
“All of the teachers that I worked with have been amazing, but especially within the hygiene program,” said Shaker, a Presidential Scholarship recipient. “I've never had any difficulty with enrollment; I love the campuses and the resources available at each of them.”
Although it was exhausting to be constantly busy while pregnant, Shaker took time to recharge and refocus.
“Everything I needed to succeed, whether it was a quiet room to focus and study, or somewhere to work out to help me relieve some stress, was available to me at MCC,” Shaker said. “Again, I knew I was going to graduate and so I rolled with the punches along the way and kept my sights on my long-term goal.”
As for future career goals, she plans working as a dental hygienist in the Phoenix area and would like to eventually be a clinical faculty member in a hygiene program. She would also like to do public health outreach, teaching the importance of oral health.
Her advice to other students facing challenges?
“Just set your mind on your goal and you will figure it out!”
Find out more about MCC's Dental Hygiene program here: http://www.mesacc.edu/departments/applied-sciences-and-technology/dental-hygiene