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MTC open house provides hands-on look at careers

Manatee Technical College's East Campus open house gave potential future students an opportunity to see the programs available.

Nayeli Centeno, a Manatee Technical College Dental Assisting student, teaches Vaylin Jensen, a Lakewood Ranch High School junior, how to suction a mouth.
Nayeli Centeno, a Manatee Technical College Dental Assisting student, teaches Vaylin Jensen, a Lakewood Ranch High School junior, how to suction a mouth.
Photo by Liz Ramos
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Vaylin Jensen, a Lakewood Ranch High School junior, received a hands-on lesson on what it is like to be a dental assistant.

He listened carefully Feb. 6 as she tried her hand at using a suction tool and water sprayer. 

Nayeli Centeno, a Manatee Technical College Dental Assisting student, guided Jensen through the demonstration.

After her open-house experience, Jensen realized that dual enrollment with an MTC program is a viable option for her senior year. She said it will jumpstart her post-secondary education and her career. 

Whether people were looking for dual enrollment opportunities, second career paths or post-secondary education opportunities, Manatee Technical College’s East Campus Open House gave students and their parents the chance to see what programs will be available to them. 

Karson Moore, a Lakewood Ranch High School senior and treasurer of the school’s Girls in White Coats, said the open house gave the club an opportunity to show its members the potential careers they could pursue in the medical field. 

Girls in White Coats is a club dedicated to empowering young women who want to enter the medical field. 

As a freshman, Moore said she had no idea what she was going to do after graduation. All she knew was she wanted to go into the medical field. 

Carmen Leal, a Manatee Technical College Surgical Technology student, practices laparoscopic surgery.
Photo by Liz Ramos

Seeing the Dental Assisting program at MTC renewed her excitement for possibly going into that field. She’s also considering gynecology. 

“My dental passion was kind of fading, but then as soon as I had the hands-on experience (in dental assisting), I definitely might want to do this now,” Moore said. “The future is still a little unknown, but I do have high ambitions for myself, and I plan to work toward that.”

Centeno enrolled in MTC’s Dental Assisting program knowing it will bring her closer to working in an orthodontist’s office. She was inspired to go into the field at 13 years old when she was getting braces and had the chance to talk to her orthodontist about the process for putting on braces. 

Now Centeno will be the first in her family to finish college when she graduates in June. 

Some MTC students, like Surgical Technology’s Carm Leal, wish they knew MTC hosted an open house when they were making college choices. Leal said she discovered MTC’s Surgical Technology program through social media, but if she knew about the open house, she could have enrolled sooner. 

As she starts her clinical training in the coming weeks, she said she’s looking forward to putting all the skills she learned on Hector, the program’s mannequin that simulates real-life scenarios, into action. 

Leal said her goal is to gain as much knowledge and experience in as many different surgeries as possible so she can become a travel surgical technician. 

Talia Lee, the program director for Surgical Technology, said the open house is crucial to educating the public about programs available at MTC. She said most people don’t know programs like hers and the pharmacy technician program are offered along with the real-life training they provide. 

“I like to make sure everyone is having fun in my program, but more importantly, they need to know they’re working on a person,” Lee said. “That is someone’s mother, father, brother or sister. You are to take that to heart.”

Besides the medical programs, MTC’s East Campus provides public safety programs such as its emergency medical technician program, its paramedic program, its firefighter program and its law enforcement program.

Jason Carey, a deputy with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, stood alongside its new GTO Airboat, which was purchased in June 2023 after Hurricane Ian.  

Lakewood Ranch 5-year-old Khloe Karambelas and her 4-year-old brother Karter Karambelas are amazed by the Manatee County Sheriff's Office's new GTO Airboat.
Photo by Liz Ramos

Carey told the open house attendees about the airboat's capabilities during and after a hurricane. It allowed the Sheriff’s Office representatives to do some recruiting.

Carey said having MTC graduates work for the Sheriff’s Office will help the community because they already are familiar with Manatee County and they will bring their “local knowledge” to the department.

Some of those who attended were looking for new opportunities.

At 26 years old, Stephanie Munson, a Facial Specialty student, wanted a “total career change.” She works in an emergency room now and has worked in the medical field since she was 19 years old. Now, she wants to do something fun that she’ll enjoy. 

Her love for all things beauty inspired her to enroll in the facial specialty program, she said. 

Lakeisha Champen, a surgical technology student, said MTC has given her the opportunity to do something for herself. 

At 46 years old, a single mother and a breast cancer survivor, Champen said her breast cancer diagnosis was a reminder that life is short, and she needs to find a career that will make her happy. 

Champen created a five-year plan that involved graduating from MTC’s program, gaining two to three years of experience in the field, a year of traveling locally and finally becoming a travel technician. 



Liz Ramos

Liz Ramos covers education and community for East County. Before moving to Florida, Liz was an education reporter for the Lynchburg News & Advance in Virginia for two years after graduating from the Missouri School of Journalism.

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