Pursuing higher education may seem daunting to mothers with young children, but going back to school doesn’t always mean years of study and steep student loans to repay. In this sponsored post, Tina Slayton, 32, explains how a Tarrant County College program helped her acquire a registered dental assistant certification in fewer than five months.
This year marked two milestones — our youngest child and I both started school. Christian’s first day of kindergarten was five years in the making. My path to the Tarrant County College registered dental assistant certification program was decidedly longer.
Days after I graduated Colleyville High School, I enlisted in the Air Force. After basic training, I was assigned to airfield management at Tindall Air Force Base in Panama City, Florida. My primary role was to escort and assist VIPs and visitors. I loved meeting high-ranking officers and interesting people from around the world, but my favorite visitor became a Florida resident. Josh, my husband, and I were high school sweethearts, and he left Texas so we could be together. We decided to marry not long after I enlisted. Our oldest was born about 12 months later. It was then that I hung up my uniform and stayed home with Hayden, who’s now 13. His little brother joined us in 2009.
My husband and I left Florida and returned to Texas, and he now works for a telecommunications company. In addition to helping raise the boys, I worked part time from home as a virtual customer service representative. But earlier this year, when I began thinking about Christian starting school, I realized I wanted to devote my time to something more meaningful, but I wasn’t sure what that might be.
Health care had always sounded interesting, but I needed a program I could complete within months, not years. I also was concerned about staying near our North Richland Hills home. In addition to being my kids’ chef, nurse, tutor, and playmate, I’m also their taxi driver, and I worried about time spent on the road and the miles adding up on our car.
I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to work part-time, go to school full-time, and manage the boys and our home. Quitting my part-time job would make us a single-income family. Student loans would be an option, but taking on debt spooked us.
My husband and I began searching online for opportunities. His research led us to TCC’s 22-week registered dental assistant (RDA) certification program. I decided to register when I learned the following.
- RDA classes are held between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., and are based at Tarrant County College Northeast Campus in Hurst (only minutes from our home).
- In less than six months, I could be working in a dentist’s office.
- Tuition and fees totaled $5,663, compared to the $34,000 per year mean wage for a dental assistant. With full-time work, I could potentially cover my education costs in two months!
- The RDA certification offers additional avenues for growth. After gaining real-world experience as a dentist’s assistant, I plan on becoming an oral surgical assistant.
I began the program in July and graduated December 8. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started, but the instructors were wonderfully supportive. In addition to time spent in the classroom, I completed a clinical rotation at a local dental clinic and put what I learned into practice. This has been a great experience. I’m certain I have found my calling.
I love what I do and am excited about working full time and contributing financially to our family. Most important, I’m not the only one who learned from the experience. My sons now have a greater appreciation for higher education and the benefits it brings.