Determination, motivation drive Wichita State’s 1st Black Dental Hygiene grad

Change Maker
Published: Feb. 21, 2022 at 1:18 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) -Determination and motivation led a local woman to graduate as Wichita State University’s first Black dental hygienist. The journey for Junetta Everett started about 45 years ago.

Much has changed since Everett was a student in the program from which she graduated in 1979.

“(It was) 1977 and we were down on Douglas. We had a little, small place for the clinic with the little, ugly, orange carpet,” Everett said of the dental hygiene program’s earlier days.

Becoming the program’s first Black graduate was an accomplishment she’s proud of because it was not always easy.

“My instructor said, ‘you might want to change professions because you probably won’t be able to afford it, and there’ll be a lot of people who will not want you to work on their mouths,’” Everett remembered.

No matter the adversity she faced, Everett said she could always count on her classmates for support.

“I remember walking into one of the clubs, the Shocker something, and they would say, ‘what are you doing in here?’” Everett recalled. “And my hygiene classmates would say (to the other club members), ‘yeah, they shouldn’t have let you in.’ Yeah, so they had my back, every one of them.”

Everett’s drive led her to a successful career as a dental hygienist and at Delta Dental of Kansas from where she recently retired as Vice President of Professional Relations. Her career success came as she created change along the way.

“I believe in intentional diversity and inclusion,” she said. “And I didn’t even realize it back then, but I was doing it then. And I want to continue to move down that road.”

That’s why she started a scholarship for minorities and mentors students. Stefanie Webster is among the current WSU Dental Hygiene students impacted by Everett.

“She’s taught me that it’s really important to be determined. That, with everything, perseverance, I put my best foot forward,” Webster said.

Today, the numbers tell the story of how far WSU’s Dental Hygiene Program has progressed.

“Just a few days ago, the university put out a report on our program and (I) was very proud that 74 percent of our students come from either an underserved minority or first generation,” said Lisa Belt with the WSU Dental Hygiene Clinic.

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