South High School Graduate Grateful for a Head Start on Her Career Path

June 7, 2021

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During a year that was anything but typical, South High School graduate Sydney Barrington took advantage of every opportunity to make her high school years count and gain valuable work experience in her chosen field. Sydney celebrated the milestones of graduating with her high school class at Vollrath Bowl on June 5 as well as from Lakeshore Technical College (LTC) in May with a technical diploma, all while working at Sheboygan’s Meinhardt Orthodontics. She will soon start a second position at Signature Dental as a hygiene and dental assistant and continue her studies in the fall.

A lifelong Sheboygan Area School District (SASD) student, Sydney has known since she got braces in sixth grade that she wanted to work in the dentistry field. Initially, she aspired to be an orthodontist but ultimately decided to pursue a career as a dental hygienist. Programs and partnerships through SASD, Lakeshore Technical College, and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, including Academic & Career Planning and Start College Now, accelerated Sydney’s efforts. The Start College Now program allows students the opportunity to take up to 18 credits at Wisconsin Technical Colleges such as LTC at no cost to the student.

In her first semester of senior year, Sydney earned LTC credits for a composition class taken at South. The following semester, because she’d completed her required high school coursework, she attended classes exclusively through LTC, including dental chairside and anatomy. She attributes the high school’s Flex-Mod schedule for helping her get to a point where she was able to do this. The Flex-Mod schedule, where classes are designed as small groups, medium groups, large groups, and labs, also provides unstructured time when students can meet with teachers or work independently.

“Without Flex-Mod, I wouldn’t have been able to concentrate on school as much or had time to work at Meinhardt,” Sydney says. “Flex-Mod gives you breaks or larger chunks of time to study and get your work done. I liked that the schedule changed every day, so it wasn’t repetitive and every day was something new.”

Ann DePagter has been Sydney’s counselor all four years of high school. During the fall of junior year, students and their parents or guardians meet with counselors for a conference that focuses on career planning. “Because Sydney shared her plans with me during junior conference,” Ann says, “when Meinhardt Orthodontics called to say they were looking for a student, I knew I had the perfect person for this.” Sydney called about the job and was hired a couple of days later.

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When she started in December of 2019, her primary responsibility was cleaning chairs and instruments and making sure the environment was safe for patients. This became especially important after the COVID-19 pandemic shifted daily routines to ensure safety. She soon moved to more of an assistant role, seating patients, working with the doctor to meet any needs, and making follow-up appointments.

“We care about our patients,” Sydney said. “We want them to be comfortable and as safe as possible. Our goal is to make them happy.”

Sydney expressed her appreciation for the guidance and encouragement she received from Ms. DePagter. “I’m truly grateful to have had Ms. De Pagter as not only my guidance counselor but as a role model. She always made me feel welcome and was always there for me. Without her, this would not have been possible.”

South High has seen a handful of students take advantage of opportunities like Sydney’s to join the workforce in their intended field. This is one example of the many ways the programs of the SASD offer students various options to meet their goals, no matter their skill set or career aspirations. These opportunities have clearly made a difference for Sydney Barrington. Her smile says it all.

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