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Finding the Right Motivation Led to a Positive Career

Wakemia Thompson describes herself as a procrastinator but after years of working temporary jobs, she was ready to find something she could do as a career.

Wakemia dropped out of high school after having her daughter at age 16. She had done nails and worked different contracted jobs for a temp agency, always with school in the back of her mind.

“I was planning on going to do adult education somewhere, but I had done that multiple times,” she said. “When I say multiple, I mean probably like ten times. I end up dropping out of it because it didn’t connect for me.”

It wasn’t until she toured Florida Career College in Jacksonville and learned about the Dental Assistant Program that something changed.

“The last straw was me just realizing that I am able to do anything I put my mind to,” she said. “I had to get the procrastination out.”


Working in the dental field reminded Wakemia a little bit of doing nails. Both require good customer service skills and make people feel good about the way they look. Dental Assisting seemed like a great first step toward becoming a hygienist one day. The program also allowed her to earn her high school diploma through a third-party provider that partners with FCC.

“The best part was getting my high school diploma because I knew I couldn’t go further in life or my education without it,” she said. “I’ve been wanting it, but I had a lot of distractions… I had little to no support before. I had to gain independence by myself.”

Cutting out distractions is not easy but Wakemia kept her two children in mind as she worked her way through school. This time, nothing was going to stop her.

“She had to do night classes toward the end because her job refused to let her off for school,” said Nikki Hayes, DA instructor. “Instead of just making excuses and not finishing, she came to me and said ‘I’m going to have to come to night class. Tell me how to do it. I need to finish.’ She was so determined. She just rocked it out all on her own.”

“I had ups and I had downs,” Wakemia admits. “I had to realize to get where I need to go in life, I had to remove certain things from my life and certain people. I’m still going through that but honestly, I’m in a better position than where I was before.”

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Wakemia graduated and was hired by her externship site. Her children were there to support her at graduation.

“I remember my daughter saying ‘Mommy, you did it,’” she said “I showed her my high school diploma and my certification. She said ‘I’m so proud of you, mom.’ To hear my child say something like that to me had me crying tears of joy. I didn’t have that support system so for my child to sit there and tell me that made me feel good.”

Looking back, Wakemia still can’t believe how much her education has changed her.

“To be honest, today when I was working, I looked in the mirror, I don’t know why, and I realized I really made it this far,” she said. “I thought honestly that I would not finish the program. Previously I just gave up. For some reason, I kept going. I don’t know if it was me getting tired of certain things, but I thought no, I need to keep going not just for myself but for my kids.”