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Speaker provides timely inspiration to dental hygiene students

Last week, the Pennsylvania College of Technology’s dental hygiene program held a special event for its first- and second-year students, engaging an international motivational speaker who is well-known in the dental field to speak with students via videoconference.

“Our students have been going through such turmoil during this COVID-19 pandemic, that we felt the need to lift their spirits,” said Shawn A. Kiser, the college’s director of dental hygiene.

The students heard from Elijah Desmond, who holds a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene from the Ohio State University and whose 13 entrepreneurial endeavors include Smiles at Sea (which provides dental continuing education courses on cruise ships), Dental Hub 360 (the social network for dentistry), The Ladder of Life (a nonprofit that provides motivational concerts for youth), Driven Dental Implant Marketing, and Constant Smiles (a dentistry and lifestyle podcast). He is also well known for his Facebook group “Trapped in an Op,” which supports dental hygienists who want to explore options outside of the clinical setting.

“In early April, I was discussing with other faculty how disheartened many of the students had become due to the uncertainty that the pandemic caused in their education, board examinations, licensure and eventual entrance into the working world,” said Bridget E. Motel, instructor of dental hygiene. “My heart just hurt for them, and I wanted to find a way to help them with maintaining motivation and perseverance in the face of difficulty, and to see that they have chosen a wonderful occupation. They are an amazing group of students who will be an incredible asset to our profession.”

Motel reached out to Desmond – who, she said, “has an incredibly positive social media presence” – via Instagram and asked him to give the college’s dental hygiene students a shoutout to uplift them. Desmond proposed a Zoom meeting.

“The motivational speech with Elijah was so rewarding to me,” said student Jordyn M. Kahler, of York. “I had found myself shifting from sad to spiteful about my future, not really considering all that was happening in the world.”

Desmond’s message provided reassurance that the students have chosen an “amazing” field with a wealth of options, providing inspiration and motivation to students to finish their course requirements. He also encouraged students to set goals, finding a reason to “show up” each day, and discussed his own accomplishments and failures, explaining that there is much to be gained from both.

“My biggest takeaway from Elijah Desmond was that your successes aren’t the only things that define you,” said Pavel Dariychuk, a dental hygiene student from Leola. “Really, it’s your shortcomings, difficulties, challenges and failures that you overcame in the process. Regardless of what you are trying to achieve, that journey will come with failure, and it’s how we persevere and demonstrate resilience during those times that help mold and define our true character. With that in mind, don’t let difficult times stop you from overcoming and accomplishing your dreams in life. Stay persistent; constantly set goals; and take small steps in the right direction.”

“Elijah put his words so simply and made his time with us so fun and honest,” Kahler said. “Showing us his vulnerabilities and failures proved to me that everything happens for a reason, and we are meant to put more good into the world. … Elijah really opened my eyes to practice selflessness, and I really needed that in this time of isolation. My motivation and will to work harder in multiple aspects of my life has been elevated to a level I’ve never reached before, and I’m so thankful for that.”

In place of an honorarium from the college’s Student American Dental Hygienists’ Association chapter, Desmond asked that a donation be made to Beyond the Game, an organization that helps kids understand that sports can be a platform to achieving higher education.

At the conclusion of the event, Desmond surprised the students by giving four of them a voucher for a free vacation-style continuing education program, valued at $600-$1,000 each.

“It was amazing to see so many students and faculty attend the event,” Motel said. “This really showed community in our program.”

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