Posted May 1, 2021
When Chelsea Pires returned home after serving in the U.S. Air Force, she knew exactly what she wanted to do and where she needed to go. Pires had spent six years stationed in Italy as a military dental assistant and enjoyed every moment of it. She wanted to stay in the dental field, but with a different job title.
“I didn’t want to just assist, I wanted to do more,” says Pires, who lives in Amherst. “And I knew becoming a registered dental hygienist would be a better fit to provide for my children.”
LCCC was an easy choice for Pires, who wanted an affordable education close to home. And because of the college’s Veteran and Military Service Member Center and her advisors, Pires’ transition to student life was easy too.
“From the first day I walked into Espy Correa’s office, lost without a clue where to begin with this civilian life, she has had all the answers or has been able to lead me to someone who does,” Pire says.
But the stumbling blocks Correa guided Pires through were nothing compared to the challenges brought on by the pandemic. When Pires’ classes moved online in March 2020, so did her children’s. And their daycare closed.
“It wasn’t easy taking my online classes with the kids home all of the time,” she says. “I am not a teacher; it was a challenge to say the least.”
Pires says there wouldn’t have been enough time in the day for her do everything if it wasn’t for parents.
“I am a single mother and owe all of my success and achievements to my amazing parents who have helped out with the kids and supported me in ways I cannot even describe,” she says.
When Pires’ children went back to their school and daycare this fall, her schedule became more structured, but the struggle lingered.
“It’s hard as a mother trying to give your best in all aspects of life,” Pires says.
But the root of that struggle – her children – gave Pires the extra push she needed.
“I wanted to make them proud.”
Pires crammed two semesters of time in the LCCC Dental Clinic, which COVID halted, into her last year of school. She says her instructors seemed to work magic to make it work.
“They have gone above and beyond to enable us to graduate on time despite all the set-backs from the pandemic,” Pires says.
Pires wrapped up her time in the clinic and is preparing to take the state and national clinical and written boards. After graduation, Pires hopes to return, in a way, to where it all started.
“I’d like to get into the Veteran’s Association one day to be a full-time hygienist,” Pires says.
Despite the trials – or perhaps because of them – Pires has great admiration for her time in the dental hygienist program. And she learned some things about herself, too.
“I realized that I can do hard things,” she says. “I can push through the stress, the tears, the unknown and come out successful.”