Gina Meade

Horry-Georgetown Technical College

"Don't think that you have to go to a four-year university to get a good education. Focus on your interests and your next step."

My name is Gina. I thought I might want to become a radiology technician, and I started the program, but I didn’t finish. Once I started having kids and got a job, life kind of took over. My husband got sick a couple of years ago, and I found myself worrying, “What am I going to do if something happens to him?” I knew I wouldn’t be able to take care of my family on my own so I decided it was time to go back to school and pursue a career.

My best friend asked if I had ever thought about dental hygiene. I didn’t think I could do it, but she said, “You are definitely smart enough and you have good people skills.” Her push was how I got started. I went over to the school and talked to somebody and here I am.

 

How did you know technical college was the right option for you? 

A traditional liberal arts program isn’t the right fit for everyone. We can’t all spend four years at a university trying to figure out what we’re going to do. If you have an idea what you want to do, you’re not getting any less of the education at a tech college, you’re going to get one that is more focused. Also, if you’re wanting to build upon your education, it’s a great place to get your first few years out of the way and then transfer.

Technical college helps people mature. It teaches them how to study. I feel like it prepares students. I don’t think the education is lesser, and you may actually get more out of it because the class sizes are smaller. The instructors bend over backwards to help you and tutor you. 

 

What obstacles did you have to overcome on your journey? 

Having to just figure out what it was that I wanted to do was a challenge. It was a big decision to narrow down what was going to make me happy in life. I wanted to do something where I could help people. You definitely help people when you’re in the science fields. Just knowing that I could help someone live a healthier life or discover a precondition they might not have otherwise known about is very rewarding.

We have to go through each patient’s medical history and do an extra oral exam. We look at everyone’s skin and check their jaw and lymph nodes. I noticed that a patient had a patch on her face that looked like it might be precancerous. I brought it to her attention and she actually thanked me when she came in the following week for her appointment.

She told me, “When you pointed that out to me, I happened to call the dermatologist and they had a cancellation so I got in that day. They took it out to do a biopsy and then he checked me out and found another spot on my shoulder and took that out, too.” 

Yes, we’re looking in the mouth, but we’re also looking at the whole person and we see things that maybe not everyone would notice. 

It’s also a challenging balancing life as a wife and mother — juggling schedules, keeping the household, making sure everybody’s fed. My mom went back to school a little later in life, as well. She advised me, “You know what? You study. Don’t worry about anything. If you need to go somewhere to study, do it. Your family can take care of themselves. They can step it up. If they need something they are old enough and your husband can pitch in. You just need to tell them what you need to succeed.” 

 

What advice do you have for others on their journey? 

Don’t think that you have to go to a major college or four-year university to get a good education. Think about what makes you happy. Focus on your interests and your next step.