“Tell me, and I forget. Teach me, and I remember. Involve me, and I learn.” Ben Franklin

These words, although hundreds of years old, still ring true today, especially within the philosophy of the district’s career and technical education (CTE) program, Signature Studies.

This year, Singley Academy, a school that houses CTE courses for all students, has secured internships for 13 students at dental offices around the city of Irving. These seniors spend 10 hours a week for an entire school year learning what can’t be taught in a classroom – hands-on experience. 

At the beginning of the internship, students put into practice what they’ve learned in the classroom. This includes how to clean the instruments, how to greet patients and how to make patients feel comfortable. As the school year unfolds, students begin taking on more responsibilities such as assisting with X-rays and taking patients’ vital signs.

Senior Brenda Calvillo, one of the student interns, is incredibly grateful for this opportunity because it’s preparing her for a career in dental hygiene – her dream job. 

“I’ve always had an interest in dental. It’s so intriguing,” Calvillo says. “I actually went to Singley to be part of the dental program.” 

This internship has reaffirmed Calvillo’s passion for dentistry and has even given her new insight into the field. 

“Every person is different. They have different situations. You have to adapt to make them feel comfortable,” she says. “The patients can be skeptical. We try our best to assure each patient that we’re keeping the area clean and sterilizing everything.”

Laryssa Hise, Singley Academy’s teacher for the dental program, uses class time to help her interns navigate this new experience, especially in the middle of a pandemic. Hise emphasizes smiling with your eyes and using a friendly tone of voice. She also says it’s important to put on personal protective equipment (PPE) and clean the dental instruments in front of patients so they feel more comfortable and relaxed. 

In addition to this hands-on experience, the student interns will take the Registered Dental Assistant exam in the spring. Students who pass the test will receive their Dental Assistant certification around the same time as their high school diploma. It’s a win-win for the dental community and the district.  

And it will give students like Brenda a jumpstart on obtaining bachelor’s degrees and dental hygiene licenses. 

“I’ve learned so much from this experience,” Calvillo says proudly. “Many people don’t get the hands-on experience like I got through this program. I’m super grateful because this is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life.”