Concorde Blog - Mar 8, 2021
Brooke Oliver has known struggle. She's battled depression her entire life, and after her mother's suicide in 2016, she found herself in a particularly dark place.
On a visit to California for a wedding, her aunt recommended she seek help from the Village of Hope, a transitional housing program run by the Orange County Rescue Mission in Tustin. She agreed.
From the Shelter to School
Village of Hope is a two-year, faith-based program, "so you have to be dedicated," Brooke says. "We would run the whole place, from taking care of each other's children, to cooking meals for everybody, [and] cleaning the facility," which is on a converted military base. "Everybody had a job to do."
While there, Brooke "worked on my self-worth and self-esteem," and as she approached the end of her two years in the program, she was ready for something more. "I've always had a job, but I felt like at this point in my life I needed a career in something that was more long-term." She decided to start school to become a dental assistant because "I've always been fascinated by teeth -- when you get your smile fixed, and you're able to smile, people get their confidence back."
Upon finding Concorde Career College's Garden Grove campus, Brooke says, "I instantly knew that was where I needed to be." The staff took note of her unique situation and found ways to help make her attendance possible. "Living at the shelter," she says, "you're not able to have a car or a cell phone. Concorde helped me figure out how I was going to get to and from school, how I was going to get internet service. They even offered to give me a wi-fi box."
Paying for school worked out as well. Through an arrangement with the Orange County One-Stop, an employment and training resource center, about 70% of Brooke's tuition was covered. Financial aid for which she qualified took care of the rest.
Once classes started, Brooke found herself in a supportive, solution-focused environment. "My instructors were just so friendly and so loving; when I would go to school, it was like going to see my family or my friends," Brooke says. For example, when she expressed difficulty with some of her math coursework, she was quickly referred to tutoring by one of the math teachers. "They really care about you passing and succeeding in their classes."
Transitioning to Employment - and Opportunities for the Future
Brooke was placed in an externship at a dental office and the same office hired her at the conclusion of her program. "My dentist actually does everything but ortho[dontia], so I've learned root canals, fillings, extractions, and implants. I really love that she doesn't just do one thing only, and she's let me be really hands-on with a lot of things."
But that doesn't mean she's resting on her laurels. "I'm in a good place right now, my living situation is good, so I'm looking to go back to school for dental hygiene," she says. "And I would definitely be going back to Concorde for it."
"I feel like there's no way I could fail there."