Ignite Davie, local businesses helping students reach career goals

Published 10:38 am Friday, December 22, 2023

By Meredith Ratledge

Word Master Media Group

The IGNITE DAVIE College Promise program (ID) is making a difference for local students, allowing them to aim for higher education and careers.

Antonia Montano and Hannah Morgan completed their dental assistant training through ID at Davidson-Davie Community College (DDCC) and were quickly hired by Dr. Andrew Rivers at Rivers Family & Cosmetic Dentistry.

Montano and Morgan learned about ID through their guidance counselors at Davie High. They were both excited about the idea of a full scholarship for an associate’s degree, followed by the option to transfer to a four-year college.

Morgan said: “I learned that I could get a full ride for an associate’s degree, and I could transfer to a four-year college after that. I would just save a lot of money in the long run.”

Montano initially pursued nursing at DDCC but later discovered her passion for dental assisting.

“I had started my prerequisites for nursing, but I slowly realized I wasn’t passionate about it,” Montano said. “I talked to my advisor at DDCC and told her I wanted to stay in the medical field, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. She suggested dental assisting, so I just jumped into it and ended up enjoying the program.”

They completed initial requirements and coursework, going through two clinical rotations—a crucial part of DDCC’s dental assistant program. Montano recalled her first time in the clinic: “Once you walked into the clinical area, it was a feeling of ‘Oh, this is the real deal.’”

Both valued the hands-on experience. “The program really readied us for wor,” Montano said.

She found her fit in dentistry during the clinical practice. “I loved sterilization. Preparing instruments and using the Autoclave excited me.”

Their rotations gave them practical knowledge.

“We didn’t just learn tasks; we understood why we did them,” Morgan said.

Rivers stressed the importance of staff understanding the purpose behind procedures, not just how to do them.

During their rotations, Montano worked at Rivers’ office in Mocksville and Hillsdale Dental in Advance, while Morgan started at Mocksville Dentistry and later joined Dr. Rivers. They spoke highly of the program’s commitment to placing students based on their interests in orthodontics or general dentistry.

Montano praised DDCC instructors. “They keep working until you land a job.”

This commitment continues post-graduation, with ongoing support for job placements.

Their time at  Rivers made a lasting impression. They praised the positive atmosphere, supportive team, and his teaching. Both emphasized his patience and willingness to explain procedures.

Hiring ID graduates was an easy decision for Dr. Rivers,  who attested to the students’ readiness and confidence after their 8-week rotations.

“Students come in and work with me chair-side, learning the flow of the dental practice, working with the staff, the patients, myself. It’s a great program – you can do a didactic class and learn with books how to do something, but when you’re actually chairside with the doctor and patient, it’s incredible how much more you learn.”

Based on their experiences during rotations, Morgan and Montano were hired a week after graduating.

Becoming certified Dental Assistants 2 (DA2), Montano and Morgan can take X-rays, perform coronal polishing, place sealants, and use a tofflemire—a device aiding in dental filings.

Both emphasized the curriculum at DDCC, saying some local programs might only equip graduates with a DA1 certification.

Looking ahead, both have ambitious plans to further their education by venturing into dental hygiene careers. This next phase involves an additional two to three years of schooling and licensure. As licensed hygienists, their roles would extend beyond assisting the dentist to include administering dental care and teeth cleaning.

Rivers conveyed his admiration for the caliber of students emerging from DDCC.

“I’ve been very impressed with the quality of the students coming through this program. Not just their ability to learn, but their attitude and work ethic have always been impressive.”

Rivers is awed at tID’s impact. “I was awestruck when I heard about the ID program. I mean, what an amazing thing to have in this county that essentially any public school student can get a free college education and get plugged into the trade they would enjoy. I would think it has to be very beneficial to the economy of this county.”

“It’s a great program. It’s good for employers, and it’s good for the students going through it. This seems like a nice symbiotic relationship where people can find good careers within their own community.”