Ten years ago Dr. Eleanora Woods set out to create a dental assistant program that moved women from welfare to the workplace, and she will continue that tradition with the next round of dental assisting classes at the E.W. Professional Career Training Center this May.
"The original purpose [of the program] was to give young ladies an opportunity to excel in a dental assisting program that may have had challenges that did not allow them to go to a traditional school," said Woods, a resident of Ooltewah.
The board-accredited, three-month dental assisting course is offered once a year and sponsored by the Chattanooga Area Dental Society. Classes begin May 16 and meet Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 5 to 9 p.m.
There is no tuition for the program, Woods said. The $2,500 cost of the program goes toward the students' uniforms, books, training supplies, a graduation ceremony and any other materials used in the program.
Woods said a person who is not financially able to pay the fees for the course can find a sponsor to pay the fees as a donation to the Dental Angel Fund Foundation, and their donation will be used in lieu of the payment for fees.
Woods, who was once a welfare mother herself, said she likes to call her program an opportunity for a second chance.
"This school provides a lot of warmth and love to help people get over those emotional traumatic situations in life," she said. "Traditional colleges don't have time for all of that."
Latarsha Lewis-Brady, a graduate of the program and dental assistant for Dr. Thomas Owensby, said the program was geared toward working around the obstacles in students' lives.
"We all were like sisters. Everybody had a story," she said. "A lot of us were either single parents or couldn't go through a traditional type school because of obstacles."
A high school diploma or G.E.D. is necessary for certification as a dental assistant, but students who do not have either can still enroll in the program, Woods said. Through the program students can simultaneously be enrolled in a G.E.D. program, and Dr. Woods said she could hold their dental assistant certificate until the G.E.D. course is completed.
"We've helped a lot of women move from welfare to work with this program over the past 10 years," Woods said.
After completing the program, students are licensed as registered dental assistants in the state of Tennessee, certified to apply dental sealants, certified to monitor nitrous oxide, certified in coronal polishing and certified in radiography.
Woods said in addition to their application, applicants are required to provide their birth certificate as a proof of citizenship for their licensure and a high school diploma or G.E.D. certificate if they have one.