The Power of Persistence: Valencia Grad Pursues Path to Dental School

As a high-school student, Ashlee Brown was required to give regular presentations on a possible career. While other students flitted from one career to another, Ashlee knew exactly what she wanted to do.

So all of her speeches and Powerpoint presentations revolved around one goal: Becoming a dentist.  “As a little girl, I never liked my smile,” she recalls, “so I had a passion about fixing my own teeth.”

Today, Ashlee is close to realizing her goal.  She’s currently in her second year at the University of Louisville School of Dentistry.

A first-generation college student, Ashlee enrolled at Valencia College after graduating from high school. During her second year at Valencia, Ashlee learned about summer pre-professional programs for minority students interested in medical or dental school.  She began applying for programs around the country and was selected for the UCLA Summer Medical Dental Education Program.

Open to students with less than 60 undergraduate credits, the six-week program is designed to provide students with help studying for medical and dental school entrance exams (MCAT and the DAT), and give them professional contacts who can become mentors. Students also get the chance to observe or participate in clinical exams, listen to guest speakers and learn how to practice to underserved populations.

“It’s kind of like a sneak peek at dental school,” said Ashlee. Although she always focused on attending dental school, “I definitely didn’t dream I could make it into a program like this,” she said.

That program opened her eyes to her career possibilities – and gave her a network of other minority students interested in the field. After graduating from Valencia College in 2015, she transferred to UCF, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in health science – pre-clinical track and graduated in December 2017.

Now Ashlee is in Louisville, Ky., and is projected to graduate in May 2022.

We can’t wait to see her smile then!