All Smiles

Pre-dentistry student defies odds on her way to dental school

 By Julie Carle

Sarah Jasinski has not let adversity or poverty deter her from reaching her goals.

The Vermilion, Ohio, native graduates Dec. 19 despite being told almost four years ago that she might not be successful in college. Not only did she finish in three and a half years, she also recently was accepted into dental school at The Ohio State University. 

Maybe the odds were stacked against her. Her family scraped by for years on an income considered below the poverty line. Her parents divorced when she was 12 and her mother struggled being a single mom. The situation thrust the pre-teen into being an important role model and caregiver for her brother, who is three years younger. 

Through the hardships and ups and downs, she learned the best route out was through education. In high school, Jasinski escaped some of the harsh realities by getting involved and reaped the rewards of teamwork, commitment and hard work as member of band, choir and year-round sports teams. 

When the time came for her to apply to college, Bowling Green State University was her only choice for two reasons: the affordable cost and the marching band. She could stay involved in music without majoring in music. Because of her fascination with teeth and dental care, she opted for pre-dentistry, declaring a major of biology and a minor of chemistry

Jasinski thought her dream of attending college was over when she interviewed for a full-tuition scholarship and didn’t receive it. When she met with a guidance counselor to discuss options, she was told she might be better off staying at home and going to a community college. That message incensed her. Again, she was determined not to let her genetics and surroundings impede her. She figured out how to manage the costs, sometimes working three jobs or finding other scholarships to fill in the gaps. 

Choosing to study biology and chemistry in the BGSU College of Arts and Sciences provided a means to the end for Jasinski’s goal of dental school. That dream was further cemented when she worked as an assistant in an orthodontic office during the summer after her freshman year. “I worked a lot with patients with special needs. I loved that. I loved being able to give back to these children,” she said.

Not all of her days were smiles and sunshine, Jasinski admitted. On those days when she felt overwhelmed or a little hopeless, she found support in teachers and professors who cared about her. She also had a close-knit group of friends who have helped her weather the dark days. Band buddies Ryan Jasany, Molly Feeney, and Sam Pikowski, and boyfriend Joshua Cebull, each had a hand in making sure Jasinski didn’t quit during the demanding quest to get into dental school.

After receiving that much-anticipated phone call on Dec. 1 notifying her of acceptance into the DentPath program at OSU, Jasinski felt relief, but also much pride and joy. Next fall, she starts the one-year post-baccalaureate program for students who are from under served or underrepresented backgrounds. She chose this path to strengthen her competency in the core sciences and further develop her commitment to community service. After completing the DentPath program she is automatically accepted into OSU’s dental school.

Service to others has been an important part of her career path to date. In addition to helping 11 six- to 18-year-olds in a local pageant program for several years, she also initiated Project Holiday Smile last year. Looking for a way to boost her community service profile for entrance to dental school, she secured donations and dental products from friends and dentist offices to distribute 520 gift bags stuffed to the brim with toothpaste, toothbrush and dental floss for families in northwest and central Ohio. Project Holiday Smile returns for the second year with a goal to distribute more than 1,000 dental goody bags. She is accepting donations through a Go Fund Me account.

According to Jasinski, Dr. Art Brecher, emeritus professor of chemistry, was one of her most supportive and encouraging faculty members at BGSU. “He helped me figure out that I wasn’t going to let my past define me. Instead, I wanted my story to inspire others. 

“While my experiences have helped shape who I am, I also realize that because of what I have gone through, I have the ability and the desire to be empathetic and to care for and help others,” she said.  

She hopes to return to her hometown where she can be involved in the community that helped shape her and where she can make a difference in the dental care of children and families who are in need.

Her advice for students interested in dentistry: “Get involved and visit the schools you are applying to and to establish relationships. Get experiences that work on your professional skills that include getting along with people from all walks of life to advancing your hand skills.”