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Cancer Can't Stop Success

February 9, 2021

While many students find themselves returning to school at Blackhawk Tech after working in “the real world,” Alexis Robeldo knew Blackhawk would be her destination before she even graduated from high school. “My counselor recommended Blackhawk to me my senior year,” she said.

That recommendation came with a similar suggestion from her personal dental hygienists, who spoke highly of the program, and a class field trip to visit several BTC health science labs. Like many of our students, Alexis is a hands-on learner. Being able to experience the dental operatories and “Dexters,” the specialized equipment configured for students to practice dental procedures on, she knew she would find success.

For the Dental Assistant Program, the pandemic impacted what students are and are not allowed to do in the field for the safety of all involved. Some students were not able to job shadow working assistants before starting the program. Other offices were not allowing Dental Assistant Students to do clinicals at their office. Another normal process for Dental Assistant students that is currently restricted is to practice procedures on each other.

As Alexis noted, this restriction “isn’t ideal because the human mouth is completely different from a mannequin. The pandemic has made it difficult for us to get ‘the full experience.’ I’m glad the college is taking the pandemic seriously and taking precautions.”

Despite the restrictions in place, she’s been thrilled with the education she’s received. “Our instructors still made sure we got the most out of our education. They are very committed to teaching us regardless of this pandemic.” Since Blackhawk was already presenting classes live and virtually, the transition to pandemic education was less of a challenge than for some institutions.

As if completing a hands-on program in the midst of a pandemic wasn’t challenging enough, Alexis was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease in summer 2020. This autoimmune disease causes the immune system to attack the thyroid. During the fall semester, she had many doctor appointments but made sure she didn’t miss class. Unfortunately, over winter break, she was diagnosed with Thyroid cancer and advised to have surgery to remove half of her thyroid.

“I did consider postponing my surgery till I completed the program,” she confessed. Upon doctor recommendation, she consented to surgery. “They had to remove my whole thyroid as well as two of my lymph nodes due to how much cancer had spread,” Alexis shared. “I had to make sure I would fully recover to go back to school within two weeks. Although I still am healing, I was able to come back on time.”

Alexis has been encouraged by her overall success and recent nomination to the National Society of Leadership and Success. Her instructors agree.

“Alexis has persevered throughout the program and understands the value of a quality education,” said dental instructor Kristen Ziegler. “Her drive is noticeable in the way she has grown and adapted to college-level coursework. I am impressed with her desire to challenge herself and excel at new skills and abilities.”

Despite the challenges she’s seen so far in her college career, Alexis will still tell you, “Blackhawk Tech was definitely the right choice for me.”

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