HANCEVILLE, Ala. — Going into a new situation is hard for almost everyone. Not knowing what to expect, not knowing many people or anyone at all, and not knowing everything you’ll need can be stressful parts of taking on a new adventure.
For new students in the Dental Hygiene program at Wallace State Community College, they are getting a little help from those who’ve been there before. In fact, they were there just last year.
On Thursday, first year and second year students in the program gathered together for a luncheon during which the first year students were introduced to their Little or Big brother or sister, a mentor they can call on when they have questions about their program.
Dental instructor Susan Brewer said the second year students could help the first year students get acclimated to clinic and ideas on how to get patients. The students need patients to work on as they learn the skills needed as dental hygienist. Many times their family members volunteer and students work on each other, as well. People from the community also come in and use their services. But the first patient for a first year student will be their Big brother or sister.
“This is their welcome lunch,” Brewer said. “For a lot of them this is the first time they’ve met their mentor, or their ‘Big.’” In the past, Brewer said they referred to each other as big or little sisters, but with more men choosing dental hygiene as a career, they’ve left off the gender classification and simply call each other a “Little” or a “Big.”
“As the semester goes on, now they know each other and now they connect and use each other as resources,” Brewer said. The students won’t be in the same classes, but Brewer said some of their clinic sessions could overlap.
The second year students each provided their Little with a gift bag of things they know will prove useful to them in some way as they start the program. “Most of it is typically stuff they’ll use in clinic,” Brewer said.
Mary Miller, a second year from Huntsville, has two Littles under her wing, Karissa Windham of Jasper and Jenny Barber of Huntsville. Their gift bags from her included pens, highlighters, hair ties, note cards, clipboards and such.
Miller said her Little from last year gave her similar items and helped make her feel comfortable in clinic and gave her tips for how to study for tests. She said they would talk every week as she went through the program. Her Big also influenced her in another way.
“My Big was the class president last year, so she kind of made me want to have a leadership role, because I’m vice-president this year,” she said.
Just as Miller was grateful for the support from her Big last year, Windham and Barber are equally as grateful they’ll have someone to call on in as the year progresses.
“It’s going to be so helpful, “ Barber said. “It will be,” Windham added.
Miller said having a Big sister helped her as she went through her first year. “I had a lot of questions,” she said. “I probably still would have made it through, but it would have been more difficult.”
She can expect to have a lot of questions coming her way this year. “She’s going to be the one I go to for everything,” Barber said. “She’s going to be very helpful,” Windham added.
For more information about the Wallace State Dental Hygiene program, visit www.wallacestate.edu or call 256.352. 8300.