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ADAF aids former flight attendant on journey to dental hygiene career

Scholarship application deadline March 13

January 20, 2015

By Jean Williams

 Ms. Gray
Ms. Gray
Through many life transitions, Wendi Gray has never given up on her dream of becoming a dental hygienist. The former flight attendant will realize the culmination of her goal in May when she graduates from West Virginia University with a bachelor of science degree in dental hygiene.

Ms. Gray won a scholarship in support of her goal from the ADA Foundation last year under its Allied Dental Student Scholarship Program.  The Foundation is accepting 2015 applications until March 13.

The ADAF Allied Dental Student Scholarship Program is merit- and need-based. Ms. Gray endured many trials and trails in pursuit of the dental hygiene career. For about a decade, she put aside her career goals in support of her pilot husband’s military career and to raise their two children.

“I kind of took the slow route and eased back into school after being gone from school for a little bit,” said Ms. Gray, 45.

The family’s itinerant lifestyle, due to her husband’s military service, meant several starts and stops of dental hygiene programs over the years.

“It was too hard for both of us to be gone, so I stayed home with the kids for a long time,” she said. “Then back in 2000, I decided to go back to school for dental hygiene. We were living in Texas at the time. I was getting ready to apply for a dental hygiene program there and my husband got transferred out to the Marshall Islands, which is halfway between Hawaii and Australia. We were only supposed to be out there for two years, but we ended up being there for almost six years.”

Later, the family moved to Idaho and Ms. Gray’s husband headed off to Iraq for a year. “When he came back, we couldn’t find work in Idaho, so he said, ‘Well, why don’t you go back to school because you’ve wanted to do this all along.’ I said, ‘I’ve been to six colleges because of your career. I’m not going to go back to school unless I can start and finish,’ and he said, ‘OK.’”

Receiving the ADAF scholarship will help Ms. Gray with some of the costs in the final months of her degree program, which will have taken her 5 ½ years to complete. “The scholarship has definitely been a huge help with my financial responsibilities with school and for that I am truly grateful,” Ms. Gray said.

Pondering why the ADAF chose her to receive a scholarship, Ms Gray said, “I hope I was selected because of my hard work and 15-year commitment of trying to reach my lifelong goal of becoming a registered dental hygienist. I truly believe it is never too late to achieve your goals in life.”

Approximately 30 scholarships valued at $1,000 each will be awarded in 2015, including 15 to dental hygiene students, 10 to dental assisting students and five to dental laboratory technology students.
The ADA Foundation accepts one application per program from each accredited allied dental program in the U.S. For example, if a single school has both an accredited dental hygiene program and an accredited dental laboratory technology program, the ADAF will accept one application for each of those programs from that school.

Student eligibility requirements are outlined in the scholarship guidelines. For applications and guidelines, visit adafoundation.org.