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Student planning on a toothsome career

Cindy Ramunno
Vail CO, Colorado
Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyKaren Grimaldo, an intern at Zastrow Dentistry, plans on a life surrounded by teeth.
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EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Karen Grimaldo didn’t enjoy the first few years of high school. “I left school for a trimester and knew I needed to make a change,” says the Red Canyon High School senior, who is now gearing up for her graduation. That change has proved to be one of the best things she did.

Grimaldo is not only graduating, she’s heading to the Community College of Denver to complete a two-year dental assistant program. “I’ve always taken really good care of my teeth and have always found teeth to be pretty interesting,” she says.

The program in Denver is one of only three in the state offering an Associate of Applied Science degree in dental hygiene. It mixes academic and clinical coursework and much of it is self directed. Graduates from the program are eligible to take the National Dental Hygiene Board Examination, the Central Regional Dental Hygiene Clinical Board Exam and to apply for licensure in all fifty states.



But it’s not for everyone. Grimaldo suggests that anyone looking into the profession should first work in a dental office. Grimaldo herself has been working at Zastrow Dentistry in Edwards for the past 6 months.

“I definitely suggest working in an office first, to see if you can handle the needles and other things that come with working in a dental office,” she says. “Also, by doing that you can really see if it’s something you’re interested in pursuing,” she adds.



Grimaldo says she received help and encouragement from the teachers at Red Canyon. “Ms. Cal (Caliguiri) always told me to keep going no matter what and that I could do whatever I wanted to do,” says Grimaldo. She credits the school’s staff for being very knowledgeable in the area of careers and how to make those careers happen.

“Karen really turned herself around once she started her internship,” says Caliguiri, who believes there was a fundamental work ethic ingrained in Grimaldo that included being early, doing extra work and being enthusiastic.Working at Zastrow Dentistry really brought that to the forefront. Caliguiri says of Zastrow’s, “The whole place is upbeat, friendly and caring. Since she started there, graduation became a reality rather than wishful thinking. Working towards a career instead of just holding a job became a goal. She’s just a happier young lady” inside and out.”

Zastrow’s office manager Leigh Compton says the situation with Grimaldo has been a win-win. “She’s been great,” says Compton of Grimaldo. “She has been more than committed, and she’s been getting into the lab side of things which is incredibly helpful to us. We are thrilled to have her here.”



For Grimaldo, the experience has made her more certain that she’s heading towards the right path. Her goal is to work for Zastrow Dentistry when she finishes her degree. And in 10 years? Grimaldo smiles, “I’ll be working at Zastrow’s, living in an apartment by myself with two dogs.”


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