Skip to Content Skip to Footer

Dental Hygiene Lakers bring smiles to McGarrah Elementary Career Day

(May 28, 2024) - Just because the summer has arrived on Clayton State’s campus doesn’t mean Lakers have stopped leaving an impact on the community – something the university’s Dental Hygiene Program prides itself on.

Dental Hygiene seniors gather together for Career Day at McGarrah Elementary School in Morrow, Georgia

In May 2024, five Clayton State Dental Hygiene students made their way to McGarrah Elementary School’s annual Career Day where they taught numerous young minds several different lessons on dental hygiene.

Tidanea Ramirez, the president of the 2025 Dental Hygiene class, said that the university’s Dental Hygiene program runs a constant series of community outreach events between its students and the community, many of which consist of volunteering opportunities – something she said she especially enjoys.

Upon learning about the McGarrah Elementary event, she said it was a bit different than the previous others she’d been a part of.

“This is actually one of the first ones we got in an elementary school this year,” Ramirez said. “I was very grateful that I was one of the students who got selected to do this.”

Dental Hygiene senior Yesenia Perez-Martinez was also grateful for the chance to volunteer but said that she had never participated in such an event before. 

However, when she walked into McGarrah Elementary School with her peers, she said she just “felt good being there.”

“My professor was telling us, ‘you’d be surprised, but kids know a lot about their teeth,’” Perez-Martinez said. “At first, we [thought] how are we going to explain what a cavity is like, how they should be brushing, and how they should be flossing? But when we came in and started talking to them about it, they were just, like, ‘oh yea, we know.’”

Ramirez said that the preparation alone for the event was exciting for her, as she brought various materials together to be visual props for the young students in attendance.

“At first, you’re nervous because it’s kids,” Ramirez said. “You don’t really know what to expect, but they were really sweet and really smart.”

To try and combat her anxiety, Ramirez simply tried to act like she would when teaching her Sunday School kids every week at church.

The senior said that as she began talking with them more and asking more questions, the more she felt in her groove.

“That was my turning point, at least for me,” Ramirez said. “When I saw that the kids were responding back to me and were engaged, I was, like, ‘we’ve got this.’”

Ramirez further recalled that the more classes they spoke to, the faster the day seemed to go for her and her fellow Lakers.

“We had 15-20 minutes to spend with them, but you felt like it was five minutes,” Ramirez said. “At the end of the day, it was just so much fun. I felt really happy to be a part of that opportunity and really grateful to just be there and teach the kids.”

Perez-Martinez agreed with her president’s sentiments, saying it was simply fun being able to talk about cavities, the difference between a hygienist and a dentist, correct home care, and more.

She also said that, thanks to the event, a career in pediatrics may also be on her radar.

“Life really comes in a full circle,” Perez-Martinez said. “I remember being in those chairs for Career Day and now I’m the person presenting to them! Prior to this experience, I was just set on working with adults. But after seeing them so excited about brushing and flossing their teeth, it just made my heart full.”

Kimberly Pyron, the clinical instructor of Clayton State University’s Dental Hygiene Program, told the small band of Lakers that she was amazed by their collective performance with the kids.

Pyron further called the experience “very rewarding” for not just her students, but also for the potential next generation of dental hygienists who may have just received their first “big” dentistry lesson from Clayton State University.  

“This experience helped to reinforce students’ education about the importance of oral health, which will allow them to advocate for themselves and possible other family members,” Pyron said. “This event was a success and helps build relationships between our dental hygiene students and the community, which is vital.”

Ramirez agreed with her professor, further adding that she hopes she and her fellow Lakers come to mind someday when today’s McGarrah Elementary School students have grown up and are wondering what to choose when deciding on their future careers.

She also said there’s no other university she’d rather represent if she’s able to teach another class of young students in her final year at Clayton State.

“I felt really proud to represent Clayton State University,” Ramirez said. “I’m proud of being in the hygiene program – one of the best in Georgia. Maybe they can remember us and think, ‘there was a group of hygiene students that came to my school and taught me this.’ Maybe that will inspire them to become better, not stop studying, and just keep growing.”

Search News