110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
Open house set for 3-7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25
By Pat Andrews
posted Aug 22, 2012 - 5:14:26pm
A DeLeon Springs woman is doing her part to get decent-paying jobs for West Volusians, and it involves her passion: dentistry.
Elicia Hester is opening the Hester School of Dental Assisting at 1045 Williamsburg Road in Brandywine. Classes start Oct. 1.
Dental assisting topped the list of good jobs for young people in a March Forbes.com article. It takes special training, but less than a bachelor's degree, and the training is much less expensive.
Nationally, dental assistants earn an average of $33,470 a year, and 17.6 percent of these workers are younger than 25.
In Daytona Beach, the median income for a dental assistant is $30,351, according to salary.com.
Training takes 1,230 hours, or 49.2 weeks, Hester said.
The training includes externships, where a student works in a dentist's office, gaining real-world experience under a dentist's supervision.
The total cost of the program is $13,500, including tuition, books and supplies, and labs. Students are issued a set of scrubs and a dental-assistant kit. While financial aid will not be available the first year, low-interest loans will be.
The school can teach 12 students in the daytime, and another 12 in the evenings.
DNR Construction of DeLand remodeled the school's home, a former bank building next door to Brandywine Shopping Center. Along with dental labs, radiography and sterilization facilities, the school boasts four fully-equipped work stations with dental chairs where students can practice their newly learned skills on an artificial student called "Dexter-Head."
They can also practice on each other, and on locals who want their teeth cleaned and polished.
In the front lobby is a small museum dedicated to dental history, including antique dental chairs.
Hester had planned to open the school in DeLeon Springs, to help that community with job training, but ran into too many problems with zoning problems, parking and plumbing requirements, along with DeLeon Springs' lack of city water and plumbing. She found a location as near as possible — but one that has city utilities.
Hester has been a certified dental assistant for more than 28 years. She started teaching at Americare School of Nursing's dental-assistant program, where she worked 2000-04. She wrote the school's accreditation package, then helped open another location in St. Petersburg.
She liked it.
"I got to teach women like me," Hester said.
She finds teaching very rewarding.
Hester grew up with her grandparents in College Park, and that's where her interest in dentistry began.
As a child, she was fascinated with her grandfather's dentures. And, dentist Dr. Bruce Gordy was a family friend. He still provides Hester encouragement, and will provide oversight to the school. So will local orthodontist Dr. Mac Steen.
"So, the support's there," Hester said.
She had planned to become a dentist, but an unplanned pregnancy and life got in the way. Instead of going to dental school, Hester went to dental-assisting school. She later got a bachelor's degree in biology.
"It's a great career," Hester said.
She's grateful her husband, Bobby, a citrus grower, has been supportive. He will help with the business end of the operation.
The school will host an open house 3-7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25. The DeLand Chamber of Commerce will sponsor a ribbon cutting as part of the festivities.
For more information, call 386-740-7272. Visit the school online at www.hesterschoolofdentalassisting.com.
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