HANCEVILLE, Ala. – The Wallace State Community College Dental Hygiene program marked its 25th anniversary during its annual Clinical Research Presentations earlier this month in the Bailey Center Auditorium.
“This is one of my favorite events of the year,” said Dr. Sharon Alley, director of the Dental Hygiene and Dental Assisting programs. “The students prepare for months and every year we’re so proud of their accomplishments. This is an extra special year because we’re celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Dental Hygiene program here at Wallace State.”
Wallace State President Dr. Vicki Karolewics shared her congratulations to the program and her thanks to alumni attending the event. “I know that we have some outstanding alums in the audience as well as some past department chairs, pointing out Barbara Ebert Sharp, who recently retired as director of the program. “Congratulations on 25 outstanding years of excellence and I’m certainly looking forward to the next 25.”
Dr. Alley recognized two of the alumni from the Class of 1996 who were among the 11 students entering the program when it began in 1994: Annie Hendon, of Arley and Betty Brooks of Altoona.
Hendon was 46 when she received her diploma. Hendon said she was working at a furniture factory when another employee there was thinking about coming to Wallace State to study. That woman didn’t go into the program, but Hendon did after coming to talk to the first instructor, Kim Gay. She took night classes to complete her academic prerequisites and quit her job to attend college full time once she entered the Dental Hygiene program.
“I went from there and it changed my life completely,” Hendon said.
Brooks was in her late 20s when she entered the program after talking with Dr. Fred Halstead, who was her biology instructor and served on the program’s staff as a supervising dentist.
Brooks said she and her fellow students felt the pressure of being the first group of Dental Hygiene students. “There was a lot riding on that if we didn’t do well,” she said. “I want to say all of us had to graduate for the accreditation. So that was a little bit of pressure hanging in the back of your mind.”
All 11 did graduate. One of those graduates was the inspiration for one of the current students in the program.
“As we were preparing for today, we placed a picture of the class that started in 1994 in our lobby,” Dr. Alley said. “One of our students who is presenting today noticed that the dental hygienist that inspired her to become a dental hygienist was in that first dental hygiene class.”
That student is Sunni Hulsey of Hackelburg and her dental hygienist is Kelly Powers from the Class of 1996.
“I’ve been going to her since I was little,” Hulsey said. “I started talking to her about how I wanted to do dental hygiene and she told me that she came to Wallace and she graduated the year before I was born.”
Hulsey said because of Powers’ outgoing personality, she’s never been afraid to go to the dentist. “It wasn’t something you dreaded because you knew she was going to talk to you and ask you about your family,” Husley said. “She always made you feel so comfortable. That’s how I always wanted to be when I got into the field.”
Along with recognizing alumni from the first and previous years, Dr. Alley also recognized the most recent graduates. The Class of 2019 earned 100 percent success rate for the regional clinical board exam.
The Dental Hygiene and Dental Assisting programs accepts new students each fall, with applications accepted from March 1 to June 1 each year. For more information, visit www.wallacestate.edu and look under the Programs tab, or call 256-352-8000.