South Florida State College Dental Hygiene program graduates.

South Florida State College honored nine graduates of its Dental Hygiene program in a traditional pinning ceremony in the SFSC University Center Auditorium on April 21. The graduates had just completed their Associate in Science in Dental Hygiene (AS) degree program.

Receiving their pins were Kelly Yarbrough, Frances Nichole Spradley, Amanda Rutledge, Hayat Shalabi, Stacy Hobby, Amanda Gahler, Monique Flores, Lauren Falls, and Lourdes Calderon. (Pictured from left to right.)

Keynote speaker Sofia Chong, who graduated from the SFSC Dental Hygiene program in 2016, congratulated the graduates for their commitment to academic success and offered them words of wisdom.

Chong recounted her own journey to a career in dental hygiene. Now one year into the start of her dental hygiene career, Chong said she had no idea what dental hygiene was when she first set foot on the SFSC Highlands Campus. “What I knew was that dental hygiene paid well, and I said to myself ‘I’ll take that road,’” Chong said to the laughter of the graduates.

After one year of taking prerequisite courses in the sciences, two years of rigorous dental education, and now with one year of paid clinical work behind her, Chong said she made the right choice by completing SFSC’s Dental Hygiene program.

“I know what you graduates have been through—believe me,” Chong said. “But I can say that you have received the best training possible from the instructors at SFSC.”

After Chong’s remarks, graduates were presented their dental hygiene pins by Dr. Deborah Milliken, chair of SFSC’s Dental Education program.

With a beaming smile, Dr. Milliken told the graduates’ families there was another reason for them to be proud that night: The pass rate among the graduates on their national board examinations was 100 percent.

Dr. Milliken also presented individual awards to three graduates. Flores received the Clinical Excellence Award. Yarbrough earned the Highest Grade Point Average Award. Rutledge was honored with the Leadership Award.

Rutledge, who had been selected class president, gave an emotional send-off to her fellow graduates. In remarks punctuated at times by tearfulness, Rutledge said the ceremony was a bittersweet moment after two years of intense academic work together that forged a bond among the nine graduates.

“We can now love and live what we do best, and that’s dental hygiene,” Rutledge said. “Let’s go out and make a difference in our patients’ lives.”