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Bringing Smiles to Your Face: VR Client Becomes Dental Assistant

October 2, 2023

Fabian Estrada


October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). Throughout the month, DES is sharing stories of individuals with disabilities who have utilized Arizona’s Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program to succeed in the workforce.

They say a lot can change in a year. That has certainly been the case for former Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) client, Julie Kim. 

Young Asian woman in blue scrub smiling
Julie at her new job as a dental assistant

When we visited with Julie last year, she had participated in the Project SEARCH program through her high school in 2020. Project SEARCH is a partner of VR designed to help young people with intellectual disabilities and learning disabilities prepare for employment and make the transition from high school to working more manageable.

Young Asian woman in blue scrub smiling
Julie at her old job at Banner Hospital's culinary department

Through Project SEARCH, Julie worked as a dish room and room service attendant at Banner Hospital’s culinary department. She credits the VR program for her success, saying, “They helped to get me where I am today. The support and the jobs that I got the last few years.”

This support led Julie to her new career as a dental assistant. She completed school and obtained her X-ray certification! She’s been on the job for eight months and says her favorite part is, “Helping people to get their smile back. I enjoy being in the community and working with my co-workers and patients.”

“I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life, but working with VR led me to a career that I love. I am very excited about the journey that I went through.” Julie says she eventually wants to become a flight attendant.

Learn more about the VR program and access services on the Vocational Rehabilitation website.


This story was originally published on the Arizona Department of Economic Security website.