Jameelia Ricks Graphic

Cooking up a new career

Three years ago, Jameelia Ricks was living in a trailer in upstate New York, working as a cook, and feeling unhappy about where she lived, what she was doing for work and her work-life balance. She became pregnant just as the covid pandemic turned the world upside down and it was just the switch up Jameelia needed to go after a new career and a new life as a Dental Assistant.

Jameelia had graduated from college in 2015 with a degree in culinary arts, but after years of working in the industry she found it wasn’t something she was passionate about anymore.

“I wanted a new career outside of the kitchen,” she said. “With cooking it’s very unpredictable. I sometimes come home late at night. I don’t like not being home for my kids.”

In 2020, Jameelia gave birth to her second child and her job requested that she come back to work in person.

“I was not ready to come back to work with a brand-new baby. People were dropping like flies,” she said. “I needed more time to figure out what I wanted to do and, in that time, I ended up losing my job because I wasn’t ready to go back when they wanted me to.”

Jameelia decided to take the loss of her job as a sign. She and her fiancé took their savings and made a move away from the cold kitchens of New York to the sunshine state of Florida.


In a new state, Jameelia found she still was not enjoying the work she was getting with her culinary arts degree. She decided it was time to make another big change in her life and began to look at other careers. She enrolled in the Dental Assistant program at Florida Career College’s Orlando campus.

“I was both nervous and excited,” Jameelia said. “Excited to be changing my career but nervous I wasn’t going to be able to jump back in after having such a long break in my education. It was a smaller school which I really loved. Sometimes when you go to a bigger school you can get lost in the sauce. I liked that FCC is smaller and more laser focused. It was easy, whenever I needed help, to find the help I needed.”

Jameelia said dentistry has always fascinated her. As she investigated the program more, she was excited about all the different branches she could go into, and the classwork came naturally. She maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout the program.

“She came in pretty confident, already having a career but knowing she wanted to transition into dentistry,” said Miracle Villalongo. “She took everything serious. She always inquired about her GPA, her grades, she always made sure she was doing her assignments.

“She was not only just a good student and absorbed the info for herself, but she did it to help others. That was one thing I really liked about her. She was just very confident and in-tuned with being a great student. She was always on top of that for herself. Then she became a great friend for everyone in the classroom. Everyone clung onto her, knowing she knew her stuff.”

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For years Jameelia had felt like she was stuck with cooking, because she had already put the effort into getting that degree, but as she progressed in the Dental Assistant program at Florida Career College she found a new world of opportunities opening up to her.

“It has showed me there are options,” she said. “Sometimes if you make a decision like going to culinary school, you’re not stuck with that decision. There are options out there to change if you are not happy with your situation.”

At the end of her program, Jameelia was hired by her externship site to work full time as a Dental Assistant.

“I live where I want to live. I don’t have to cook anymore. I’m going into a profession that has always fascinated me. It just seems like things keep getting better and better,” she said. “At FCC, there are excellent programs available, great staff to help you if you need the help. There is a lot going on there.”