Student Spotlight: Abbie Wheeler

Ricardo Diaz, IV Leader Staff Writer

“I had no clue if I was making the right decision or not. I never took much time to think about what I wanted to do after I left high school,” said current Illinois Valley Community College student Abbie Wheeler after applying for the Dental Assisting Program at IVCC.

Third generation McDonald’s employee and Mendota native, Wheeler said she never thought much about what exactly it was she wanted to do with her life. Like her grandmother and mother, Wheeler worked at McDonald’s since she was 16 years old. However, unlike her predecessors, Wheeler knew that she did not want that to be her career.

“College seemed scary to me, thinking of furthering my education after high school seemed almost too daunting of a task to take on,” Wheeler said. Like many students her age, she was indecisive when it came to her future.

Wheeler’s high school offered college visits and in her senior year of high school, she decided to visit IVCC and a couple of other colleges to see if any of them piqued her interest. During her visit to IVCC, Wheeler saw posters for the Dental Assisting Program and thought to herself that although she never considered a dental career, she was curious and wanted to find out more.

“I know this sounds weird, but right after my college visit, I went home and scheduled an appointment with my dentist.” Wheeler had been going to the same dentist for such a long time, but never paid attention to the complexities that revolve around a dentist visit such as the different people an individual sees during a routine dentist appointment.

Wheeler went on to say, “I totally interrogated every person that I saw during my appointment, asking them about their personal experiences and any advice that they would provide for someone considering a profession in dentistry.”

After much consideration, Wheeler decided to take the jump and enroll in the Dental Assisting Program at IVCC. There were other colleges that offered similar programs; however, Wheeler chose IVCC due to the proximity to home and flexibility of classes.

Her flexible schedule allowed her to be able to continue to work and support herself throughout her schooling. “It was definitely not easy but I found so much support from my professors and fellow Dental Assistant classmates. We were such a tight-knit group of girls. I will never forget them,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler has now since completed and earned her Dental Assistant Certificate and is now working at her childhood dentist. “I feel so fortunate to work at a place where I feel so comfortable,” she said.

Wheeler is still continuing her education at IVCC, taking classes to enter the Dental Hygienist Program in the near future.

“I would like to let present-day high school seniors [know] to not be scared to take a chance and really take some time to think about what they want to do with their life,” said Wheeler. “IVCC provides you with a good start all you have to do is take the chance and run.”