When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, 26-year-old Yanilisse Perkins was in her fourth year of working at a job that left her feeling drained, tired and unfulfilled. The daily grind of working at the rental car company wasn’t physically demanding, but she often felt surrounded by negativity and worried about how that might affect her family life.
“When I was there, I felt down every day,” she said. “And, I was passing it along to my home. I needed an atmosphere where I loved what I was doing. Life is hard enough to put yourself in the position of having to deal with negativity every single day.”
So, when Yanilisse fell victim to a round of pandemic-related layoffs at the agency, she recognized a door had opened. She had long wanted to establish a career in the medical field, and now was her chance to not only learn a trade, but to also earn her high school diploma.
At the advice of a friend who had completed a health care program two years earlier, Yanilisse looked into becoming a student at Florida Career College in Lauderdale Lakes.
“I felt like if God opened this door for me, I should walk through it and do what I had to do,” she said. “So I came to the school, sat down and spoke with an advisor.”
Yanilisse joined FCC’s Dental Assistant Training Course and never looked back. And today, after completing all her classes and nearly all of her externship at a pediatric dental clinic, Yanilisse says she’s on track to earn a full-time position as a dental assistant within the practice.
“I was in a position where I didn’t have a job, I didn’t really have anything under my belt, and I wanted a better life for my girls,” she said. “Something just clicked in me that it was time to further my education. Being laid off was an awakening for me.”
She Never Gave Up
Completing her education became difficult for Yanilisse when, at the age of 16, she gave birth to her first child. Having a child to raise forced her to make a choice between school and the workforce, and she chose the latter so she could best support her daughter in the short term.
“It was a difficult time for me to stand on my own two feet,” Yanilisse said. “I tried to go back to school after my first daughter was born, but outside situations forced me to leave. And, when I came back, I got pregnant again.”
Through this, though, she never gave up on education. She tried a couple of different GED programs, but they didn’t work out, either. The weight of life’s responsibilities led to having to get back into the work field and place school on the back burner, and during these stretches she could focus on just two things: her kids and her work.
But, she continued to hang onto her dream of a career in the medical field. She wasn’t quite sure what that would look like, but health care was a field she had admired and respected since she was a kid.
After meeting with admissions and learning about what programs FCC had to offer, Yanilisse found herself attracted to a slightly different direction within the medical field: dental assistant (DA).
“It was in the medical field, which I prefer, and I could work with kids, if I chose,” she said. “DA was something different — something you don’t always hear about in other trade schools — and I knew it was something I could love doing while better providing for my kids.”
Culture of Support at FCC
Following her past work experiences, positivity is a critical element of both Yanilisse’s education and her career. At FCC, she found endless positivity working with instructors like Shatoya Harp.
“Ms. Shatoya was a huge, huge reason why me and others got this far,” Yanilisse said. “For her, teaching isn’t like just doing a job. She actually cared – she was our backbone.”
“Having Yanilisse as a student was such an honor to me. I’ve watch her grow in the past year that we shared together her passion to learn really set standards and met expectations that she never thought she’d get past. She was an amazing student and there is no doubt in my mind that she’s going to become an excellent Dental Assistant, and one day an even better Dental Hygienist later in her career,” Shatoya said.
Being able to work with kids also makes it possible for Yanilisse to work in an environment that’s happier and more positive than what she’d experienced in past jobs. It’s why her externship at a pediatric dental practice was ideal for her.
“It’s such a positive atmosphere,” Yanilisse said. “The colors are brighter, everyone’s so positive, happy and bubbly, that this attitude gets passed along to my home. When I go home, I want to feel positive and happy.”
“I am beyond proud of Yanilisse. She started her dental assisting program in the mist of the global pandemic but she never let any obstacles interfere with her goals and accomplishments. Prior to externship, Yanilisse came to me and said that she wanted to work with kids. We were able to make that happen,” said Jenn Arbeit, Career Services Specialist at FCC Lauderdale Lakes. “Yanilisse has never missed a day of externship and will finish her program with a 4.0 grade average. She is the true definition of when you dream it, and work hard, you can conquer anything.”
And, she wants this positivity to rub off on her family — her husband and her three daughters.
“For them, it means a better life, a better example, and better role model and a better way of living. I am going to be able to provide for my kids,” Yanilisse said. “It’s overwhelming, the fact that I was able to get here. I pushed myself to get this done with the help of my supportive husband financially, and my mom that helped me with the kids so I can focus. I am so grateful to have them be part of my success and growth for a better life. This is just the beginning of what is to come.”