Columbus Tech Graduation Means a Fresh Start

 May 2, 2012: If you asked Kimberly Zapata in late 2009 where she’d be in three years, you might be met with tears and uncertainty. That’s when she and her husband lost their jobs with an Opelika tire plant; Kimberly had been drawing a paycheck there for some 17 years and the future looked dim. Fast forward to May of 2012. Kimberly has a new spring in her step. She will be walking across the Trade Center stage at 7:30 Monday night, May 7, as a newly graduated dental hygienist from Columbus Technical College. About 200 students are expected to participate in the ceremony where Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson will be the featured speaker.

“When I lost my job, I knew I wanted to go to school to pursue some kind of health-related degree. I was just drawn to dental hygiene,” Zapata said. “It’s the perfect fit for me because I get to combine my ‘mechanical’ mindset with personal interaction.”

Kimberly Zapata

Columbus Technical College dental hygiene graduate, Kimberly Zapata.

During much of her intense and rigorous college career, Zapata was on her own because her husband’s Reserve unit was deployed to Kuwait. He returned one week ago and, along with about ten family members, will join her at graduation.

“It was a very demanding and difficult undertaking,” Zapata said of the program. “But even knowing what I know now and how hard the program is, I’d go back and do it again in a heartbeat. I am confident that once I get licensed in Georgia and Alabama, I’ll be able to go straight to work.”

Kimberly has already passed both her national and state board exams and will apply for licensure after graduation. According to the Alabama and Georgia Dept. of Labor websites, the average starting salary for a dental hygienist is about $41,200 per year.

Congratulations to all Columbus Technical College graduates and best wishes for the future!