HATTIESBURG – Lauren Michelle Williams received her dental hygienist pin Tuesday, May 3, at Pearl River Community College but military obligations will take her out of her chosen field for more than a year.Williams began a 400-day deployment Wednesday with the 1st/204th Air Defense Artillery of the Mississippi National Guard, ultimately headed to Iraq.Im anxious and excited, Williams said. I think it going to be a great experierence.Williams and 15 other sophomores completed the two-year dental hygiene program at PRCC Forrest County Center. College officials scheduled the formal pinning ceremony earlier than usual so that Williams and her family could attend.The educational benefits and promise of adventure lured Williams, 21, to enlist in the National Guard while a senior at Clarkdale High School near Meridian. She came to PRCC in Poplarville four years ago on a soccer scholarship with plans to become a dental hygienist.When I was through with school and soccer there, I applied and got in, she said.Williams received the Mississippi Dental Association award for Outstanding Dental Hygiene Student and was inducted into Sigma Phi Alpha, the Dental Hygiene Honor Society.She a good student, in the classroom and the clinic, said Dr. Stan Hill, program director. I would love to have more like her.Williams, who now lives in Hattiesburg, has juggled school, weekend drills and summer training with apparent ease and holds the rank of sergeant.I got lucky, she said. The school and my unit have been amazing, working with me. Ive gotten everything done I needed to. Everybody been really understanding.She is an early warning air defense radar operator in the National Guard. Her unit, headquartered in Newton, will spend three months training at Fort Sill, Okla., before deploying to Camp Victory in Baghdad.I really believe well be fine, she said.In addition to Williams, Sarah Lauren Smith of Hattiesburg and Laura Ashley Askin of Biloxi were inducted into Sigma Phi Alpha. Askin also received the Colgate Star Student Award and Smith received the Mississippi Dental Hygienist Association Achievement Award.Others who received awards were Kayla DeLane Harvey of Liberty, Most Outstanding Dental Hygiene Student; Lien Kim Dao of DIberville, Hu-Friendy Golden Scaler Award; and Noelle Allyson Burkman of Hattiesburg, PRCC Patient Education Award.The other new dental hygienists are Linda Thi Le and Liberty LaDonna Lessard, both of Biloxi; Kara Minton of Hattiesburg; Bayley Elizabeth Butler of Bay Springs, Kylee Lynn Carpenter and Stephanie Marie Key, both of Gulfport; Emily Little Caughman of DLo, Kristen Elise Cox of Raymond, Corrie Anne Hatcher of Lucedale and Jordan Renee Hill of SoSo.
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