Veronica Harris didn’t always know that she wanted to be a dental hygienist. She received her bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice in 2010 from California State University, East Bay. “I was working as a juvenile counselor and was laid off from my job. I enrolled in a science course to keep me busy while I looked for work, and I became really interested in science and started to take more courses.” The idea to become a dental hygienist came from Veronica’s identical twin sister, Monica, who is a registered dental assistant. “She told me about working in Dentistry and how stable the career was. So I shadowed a hygienist at her office, and I knew that was what I wanted to do.”
In 2014, Veronica left California and arrived at The Ohio State University campus, ready to study dental hygiene that autumn. Calling around to secure childcare for her then nine-year-old son, Lorenzo, Veronica was given the number to the ACCESS Collaborative Program. Housed in Ohio State’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, ACCESS, an acronym that stands for “A Comprehensive College Experience for Single-Parent Students,” is an academic and social support program that assists low-income, single parent students pursuing a college education at Ohio State. While the program strives to increase the retention rates of all low-income, single parent students, consideration is given to the unique circumstances of students from diverse social groups, including minorities.
After calling ACCESS Collaborative, Veronica was appreciative of the assistance that she received, stating, “ACCESS was so helpful with telling me what school I should enroll my son in and other important things.” As a single-parent, ACCESS Collaborative offered Veronica support from other mothers who are going to school as well as meetings every week where single-parents get together and support each other. During the meetings, Veronica says, the group talks about their week and things that they may go through as single mothers. “I think it’s very important to have a support system like ACCESS. The majority of my classmates don’t have children, so I can’t relate to them on the same level. It’s very important to be surrounded by other single-parents so that we can support one another.”
Balancing childrearing with all of the responsibilities that come along with earning a college degree can sometimes be tough. Veronica works hard to balance school with taking care of Lorenzo, who is currently in the fifth grade: “The dental hygiene program requires a lot of studying so sometimes my son and I will sit at the table and work on our homework together. That way if he has questions I can help him.” And Veronica would be the first to admit that there are challenges as she balances college and parenting, especially when trying to find time to spend with her son. “I’m not always able to spend as much time as I would like with Lorenzo,” she offered.
Although Veronica knows the importance of spending time with her son, Veronica also understands what a degree in dental hygiene will mean to her and Lorenzo. “My son has really been my motivation to go back to school so I can be able to provide for him.” Currently a senior at Ohio State, after graduation, Veronica plans to move back to California and to work in a private office as a registered dental hygienist.
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