Tech Career Capstone initiative provides students with increased work-based learning opportunities
Gabrielle Guy has her eyes firmly set on becoming an oral surgeon, and a unique opportunity at Sussex Technical High School has helped her take a big step closer to her dream.
The recent graduate from Laurel spent four afternoons each week during the last year not in the classroom or high school dental laboratory, but working – getting on-the-job experience at First State Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery in Seaford. She assisted with anesthesia, tooth extractions, consulting with patients, and doing follow-ups.
“It was a huge opportunity to get my foot in the door, where you can learn so much more through hands-on experience,” Guy said. “It’s made me more well-rounded, especially working with patients. You’re getting an incredible amount of exposure and experience in your field.”
She traces her interest in dentistry and medicine back to second grade, when she tripped and fell in gym class and knocked out a tooth. Now, Guy will be attending Salisbury University this fall to major in biology, to be followed by dental school and then medical school.
Oral surgeons treat certain teeth problems and TMJ, treat oral cancers or lesions, and place dental implants, among other services. Oral surgeons cut into the bone, requiring a deep knowledge of arteries, veins, and nerves; Guy says it’s about 75 percent medicine and 25 percent dentistry.
She describes her passion as a calling to help others. “People are always going to have these problems, and there’s always going to be a need to help with these problems,” she said.
She got a solid grounding in the Sussex Tech dental services program, where she earned her certification as a dental X-ray technician and learned about taking impression, dental instruments, protective equipment, and the structures of the mouth. As a member of Sussex Tech’s chapter of HOSA – Future Health Professionals, she’s competed at the state competitions for the last three years. She has also been honored as one of Delaware’s Secretary of Education Scholars, and was salutatorian of the Class of 2019.
Now, thanks to the Tech Career Capstone initiative, Guy will enter college with nine months of professional dental experience, giving her a leg up on students from other schools just now entering the field. While some patients don’t realize she’s in high school, her colleagues have been fully welcoming and supportive. “They know I don’t know everything, and take the time to help me,” she said.
While Sussex Tech students already graduate with professional certifications or licenses that prepare them for careers, many want to go further into the field, like Guy – and the on-the-job experience through Tech Career Capstone gives students even more options, said Principal John Demby.
“Work-based learning experiences are such a vital part of career and technical education,” Demby said. “We are working every day to expand these opportunities to all our seniors and make sure they have those connections between school and work.”
Tech Career Capstone is part of the school district’s renewed emphasis on career and technical education, said Superintendent Stephen Guthrie. Sussex Tech is now working to make sure every senior has the opportunity to work in the community for at least half of their senior year.
“Local employers want to put our students’ technical training and knowledge to work – giving students the benefit of real-world experience while identifying possible future full-time employees,” Guthrie said. “We’re looking forward to helping even more students succeed like Gabrielle has through these unique opportunities.”
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