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Estella Wilbourn

Before her children were born, Estella Wilbourn worked as a laboratory office assistant, but she gave up that job to be a stay-at-home mom. But there came a point in 2005, she says, when “they didn’t need me at home any more. It was time for mom to get a career!”

Based on her interests, her Gateway counselor suggested that she enroll in the one-year Dental Assistant Program, which could be a pathway to several work options. Estella was also relieved to see that she wasn’t alone as an older student.

“I was impressed by my two instructors,” she recalls. “Both were in the dental field for over 20 years, so they had both work and life experiences to share.”

“I really appreciated the hands-on emphasis,” she says, “from greeting the patient to mixing materials, handling instruments, and doing x-rays. We practiced on mannequins and typodonts (models of the mouth) as well as on our classmates and real patients.”

That “real-patient” work included clinical sessions at three different locations with different emphases. She finished her study with a week of intensive clinical practice at the office of an oral and maxillofacial surgeon in Kenosha , then a week with an orthodontist in Racine.

Estella received her technical diploma in May 2006. A first goal is to complete a four-hour test (for which the Gateway program prepares each student) later this year to earn Certified Dental Assistant status to increase her marketability.