Kristi Christian learned many lessons in her time at OTC. There were, of course, the lessons learned while working toward her dental hygiene degree. But, more importantly, there were the lessons Kristi learned about life.
Before she began attending OTC, Kristi’s support system was mainly her mother, Lucille.
“My mom was my biggest advocate. She lived across the street. She stayed with the kids when I worked overnight. I couldn’t have done it without her,” Kristi said, who was divorced with three young children.
To support her family, Kristi worked full-time stocking shelves on the overnight shift at Walmart. She also cleaned houses and businesses on weekends and her nights off. Her mother stayed with the kids at night while Kristi worked.
“I don’t know how I did it,” she said looking back on those days. Kristi realized her schedule was not sustainable and she wanted to do something else with her life. The answer came to her one night while watching television.
“A commercial came on for OTC and it was scrolling all these programs offered at the college. Suddenly, dental hygiene came up and I sat up and said, ‘Is that right? That’s something I could go back to school for and not keep working at Walmart overnights.’ I was ecstatic,” she said.
After seeing the commercial, she came to OTC to get some more information. She walked out registered for classes.
Kristi, with the help of her mom, juggled all of the responsibilities she had as a student-parent: attending classes, studying, working and taking care of the kids.
“Mom was there for everything. She would help me clean homes and business offices. She was watching my kids,” Kristi said.
Kristi would take her kids to school in the morning, then head to OTC to take her classes. She only slept three hours a day, usually from 6-9 at night, and sometimes, during a break in her classes. But everything changed in 2011 when her mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. “I was numb. How was I going to continue going to school? She was my strongest supporter. It was tough,” Kristi said.
In 2011, just before Thanksgiving, Lucille died.
“I was thankful her struggle had ended, but I knew a different journey was ahead for my kids and me,” Kristi said.
Enter Kristi’s other support group – her dental hygiene family.
“I had to keep going. I had to finish. I was so close. The instructors, classmates, everyone was so encouraging. I couldn’t have done it without them,” she said. “Every single one of them was like family to me. I lost my mom, but I gained a whole bunch of other people.”
And when Kristi received her dental hygiene degree, she knew who would be watching her. “I walked across that stage and I just looked up and thought, ‘We did it mom. We did it.’ I got through it,” she said.
Since graduation, Kristi has gone to work for Dr. Marshall Snodgrass at Our Dental Home in Marshfield. She’s also re-married.
“Everybody goes through struggles. It is how you deal with those struggles that’s going to make a difference and make you a stronger person in the end.”