Regis Today | Winter 2023 | Hearts & Minds: Yanitza Espinal





Sitting at her kitchen table, dental hygiene student Yanitza Espinal ’23 takes out her textbooks to begin homework for the night. After a long day of work and classes, Espinal looks across the table at her 9-year-old daughter and is reminded of exactly why she made the difficult decision to return to school as a nontraditional student to pursue her dream of becoming a dental hygienist.Espinal and her daughter

“When my daughter grows up and learns my story, she will see I had the courage to start making the changes needed regardless of where I was in my life,” says Espinal. “I wanted to show her it’s never too late.”

Espinal had worked in the dental field for more than 20 years, first as a dental assistant and then as a regional manager, when she started to reflect on her career path and plan for her family’s future.

“I decided to go back to school because I wanted to do something impactful,” reflects Espinal. “I wanted to work directly with patients and also provide a more stable future for my daughter.”

Espinal has seen firsthand how helping someone have a healthy smile not only boosts their selfesteem, but also helps restore dignity and changes people’s lives.

“I chose a career that is both meaningful and rewarding,” she says. “And I can’t wait to help others.”

Espinal enrolled at Regis not only for its top dental program, but because she felt that it aligned with her life spiritually.

“I want to help people and serve, and that’s what Regis stands for,” says Espinal. “There is an emphasis not only on the academics, but also on educating the whole person.”

Balancing life as a single mother, a student, and an employee comes with its struggles, but Espinal credits her family, classmates, and professors for helping her achieve her goals.

When my daughter grows up and learns my story, she will see I had the courage to start making the changes needed regardless of where I was in life. I wanted to show her it's never too late.“Regis is a supportive environment that makes success more attainable,” says Espinal. “My professors show tough love but understand the demands I have, and my classmates are truly one of a kind—everyone is rooting for me to succeed.”

And her family is by her side to help too.

“There are days that I come home and have so much homework that I don’t see my daughter, and I feel guilty passing her around to different family members,” shares Espinal. “When I have weeks like this, I plan at least one fun thing for just the two of us—like getting ice cream. It means a lot to us both to have these small moments together.”

Her scholarship support is another key motivator. As the recipient of the Hannah Bradley Endowed Scholarship and the Honey Shames Dental Hygiene Scholarship, Espinal finds inspiration and hope knowing that others believe in her.

“My scholarships changed my life, and I would not have been able to finance my education without this generous support,” Espinal says. “I know I have to work hard to make the most of this opportunity.”

And she has done just that. She ended her first year at Regis with a 4.0 grade point average and was awarded the Rising Star Award, which is given to first-year students who made a significant impact on the Regis community.

Fast-forward two years and Espinal is just a couple of months away from graduating as a dental hygienist and launching a new career. She knows that all the hard work will be worth it when she crosses the Regis commencement stage with her new degree in hand. And when she is having a tough moment, hearing her daughter proudly tell others that her mom is going to school “just like her” brings everything back into perspective.

“My daughter is my accountability partner,” says Espinal about their nightly homework sessions. “She holds me to the same academic standards that I hold her to, and she is the motivation for everything I do.”