Foundation for the Future: ACC Alumni’s Journey to Becoming a Dentist

With humble beginnings at Austin Community College in 2012, alumni Eugenia Osbon expects to graduate from the University of Texas at San Antonio’s School of Dentistry with a doctorate within the next year – a leap of faith she took by leaving her hometown in Belarus.

Video and story by Angelica Ruzanova

Edited by Pete Ramirez

Growing up in the affluent and historic town of Vitebsk, Belarus, which produced several of the world’s greatest painters such as Marc Chagall and Kazimir Malevich, Eugenia Osbon’s love for art prospered at an early age. 

But it wasn’t until Osbon’s time at Austin Community College that she discovered her true artistic outlet to be dentistry. 

In ACC’s dental hygiene program, Osbon found a love of studying health care which marked the beginning of a life-changing journey toward becoming a dentist. 

“When I just came to the United States, I was wondering if I could continue my education or start something new,” Osbon said. “There weren’t many options for me as a recent immigrant [while] not working or making any money so ACC was actually a great option for me…”

At the start of her time at ACC, Osbon had an idea she might enjoy going into the medical field but was unsure what kind of medicine she wanted to pursue.

“The class which actually turned me towards the medical field and especially dentistry was microbiology for health professions that I took at the Cedar Park campus,” Osbon said. “It was amazing and really, really inspiring.” 

Osbon could tell she was making the right choice and decided to push herself to aim for a more challenging goal.

“…I decided that I might as well just go and transfer to a university and get my doctorate instead of settling on two years of dental hygiene,” Osbon said.

Once her mind was set on this goal, Osbon became dedicated to her path, despite facing obstacles such as learning to speak English and navigating through limited financial means. 

“The language barrier made things very hard for me in the beginning because I decided to go into the medical field and my first class I took at ACC was anatomy,” Osbon said. “Not only was it hard for me to speak English, be present in lectures and try to write notes, but at the same time there were words that I’ve never heard in my life and it was definitely challenging.”

Osbon’s struggles became learning experiences that have made her a better dental student. She recalled retaking the class again in order to maintain a high GPA and found the experience to be rewarding. 

In addition, Osbon joined student organizations which made her feel welcomed and connected to a supportive new community. 

“I joined the National Honor Society pretty much right away – Phi Beta Kappa, and it was a great thing for me because I realized that without any financial help or big means I could actually help others because I was in a community that was helping others,” Osbon said.“It was one of the first things I did to give back to the people I met here who were really nice and welcoming.”

Osbon said that soon she’ll be able to do the same as a dentist caring for her future patients. 

After Osbon graduated from ACC with an associate’s degree in health science, she transferred to Texas State University where she started her pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in microbiology and chemistry.

Once Osbon received her bachelor’s degree from Texas State University, she was soon after accepted into the highly competitive University of Texas at San Antonio’s school of dentistry.

Eugenia Osbon stands infront of UTSA's dentistry lab.
“A new foundation for oral healthcare and research,” reads an inscription on one of the offices the University of Texas at San Antonio’s School of Dentistry. Eugenia Osbon poses in front of it with a folder from the school.

Nearly a decade since her start at ACC, Osbon observed that her academic story was not so different from another classmate in her dental school. 

“I met another friend who went to ACC who graduated last year at the age of 40,” Osbon said. “We both could have completed our demo degrees faster or slower, but ACC gives you the opportunity, tools, and community to do so at your own pace.”

As Osbon nears the end of her academic career, she is appreciative of her time at ACC where her dream of becoming a dentist first began. 

“ACC is a great beginning place,” Osborn said. “No matter your age, financial level, background, it helps you to achieve your goals.” 

“[ACC] prepared me really well for Texas State level courses and some of my courses at ACC were just as hard,” Osbon said. “My professors were just as knowledgeable and very welcoming, which is why ACC has a big spot in my heart.”

Eugenia Osbon and her friend Saima Khan smile as they lay in the grass between dental classes.
Saima Khan (left) and Eugenia Osbon (right) take a break in between classes at dental still in their scrubs outside of the University of Texas at San Antonio’s School of Dentistry.

Osbon will be graduating with a doctorate in dental surgery from UTSA in May of 2023. The initial open door that ACC offered to Osbon, has altered the course of her career, her life, and will benefit future patients of the soon-to-be Dr.Osbon.

ACC Students Take Control of Their Finances with Help from Student Money Management Office

Graphic by Kate Korepova

Story by Gloria Nguyen

Edited by Pete Ramirez

College can feel like the void between childhood and adulthood, but once a young person graduates high school and advances to the higher tier of their education, they are considered adults and must become more responsible for the decisions they make regarding money. 

However,​​ an ING Direct study found that 87 percent of teens surveyed knew little about personal finance. 

Understanding how complicated and frustrating money management skills are, Austin Community College’s Student Money Management Office (SMMO) is here to help students take control of their money. Money management skills are even more crucial for students who plan to transfer to a four-year university, as the financial burden is much heavier in most cases. 

Shannon Pinales, an ACC student who just got accepted to the University of Texas at San Antonio, shared that she was never taught about money in her teenage years. At ACC, she sought help from the Peer Money Mentor Program (PMMP) offered by SMMO. 

Shannon Pinales and her acceptance letter from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Photo provided by Shannon Pinales

“Before I was in that program, even talking about the word ‘budget’ was enough to get me anxious. It wasn’t a territory I could speak about,” Pinales said. 

However, having been in that program for one year, Pinales is now confident that she is at a good place with her budgeting. She has also helped the office with some scholarship workshops behind the scenes. Pinales has learned valuable information about the money sources, where to find them, and how to apply for them. 

“The whole application process is overwhelming,” Pinales said. “But the office has helped me have a better idea of what I need to do on a weekly basis, monthly basis, and so on.”

Pinales, who will be transferring to a four-year university, said that she did not wish to take out any loans and would spend her weekends working on scholarship applications. 

“At ACC, I was able to not take out any student loans and always had a refund every semester,” Pinales said. “My budget would look completely different as I’m transferring to a new school. I don’t want to put any loan pressure on me.” She said she is grateful for learning how to take control of her finances before transferring to a four-year university.

Amber Rodriguez, like most young adults, would spend all the money she had in her bank account because she did not know any better. 

Amber Rodriguez representing her new school, Texas State University. 
Photo provided by Amber Rodriguez

But now, that’s all in the past. Rodriguez now has savings she is building on and extra money in case of emergency thanks to the Peer Money Mentor program.

Rodriguez took part in the Rainy Days Saving Program of SMMO, which has an incentive of $25 in cash to maintain a balance of $475 or more for 30 or more days.

Participating in this program changed Rodriguez’s relationship with money. 

“I had almost $500 in my bank account, which I had never had before,” Rodriguez said. “Having that much money really helped change my mindset and started making it fun for me to save money.” 

What bothers Rodriguez the most regarding transferring are transportation and food costs. When she was at ACC, she had a free transportation card on the bus and train. 

Now studying at Texas State University, Rodriguez takes the bus from North Austin to San Marcos every day. 

“Since I’m at school all day, I’m spending way too much eating out,” Rodriguez said. “I realize I have to start packing more than one meal to save some money.” 

Arjana Almaneih is studying at the University of Texas at Austin and living in North Austin. She does not worry about transportation costs since her husband picks her up after school. 

Arjana S. Almaneih throws up her horns in front of the University of Texas at Austin. 
Photo provided by Arjana Almaneih

However, Almaneih has spent much more on textbooks and food compared to when she was at ACC. She said that professors at ACC were more likely to minimize course materials, so she did not have to spend too much buying textbooks. She has also spent quite a lot of money on eating out since it is inconvenient to pack her own meals.

“Participating in the Student Money Management Office during my two years at ACC completely changed my financial situation, and not to be dramatic, but my life as well,” Almaneih said. “I went from constantly going negative in my accounts and zero savings to living very financially stable. I have three different savings accounts and feel very confident and comfortable with my financial situation.” 

Almaneih is grateful for being a part of and learning from the PMMP. 

“Because of the knowledge I gained, I am attending the number one public university in Texas and the tenth best public university in the United States on a full-ride scholarship as a first-generation student,” Almaneih said. “Because of my time with the PMMP, I will receive my bachelor’s degree with zero debt.”

Almaneih shared practical advice for students at ACC who are trying to build a solid foundation for their finances. 

“I would highly suggest any and all ACC students to get involved with Student Money Management,” Almaneih said. “Whether that’s through a workshop, a financial coaching session, the Rainy Day Savings Program, the peer money mentor program, or just paying attention when they come to your class!”

The PMMP will return in Fall 2022. ACC students can easily find more information and waitlist their names at the SMMO’s website. Information about scholarships workshops and Rainy Days Saving Program can also be found on their website. Students can reach out directly to them by calling 512-223-9331.