At Parkland: A reason to smile

By Chicago 6 Min Read

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Peg Boyce is one of the keynote speakers at Thursday’s Parkland College Foundation Creating Impact Celebration in Champaign. Her story:


CHAMPAIGN — When a client offered Peg Boyce one scholarship for her dental hygiene students, she didn’t expect it to turn into four.

The client first began coming to the Parkland Dental Clinic when he couldn’t afford other dental care for his whole family, then continued even when he had the money to go elsewhere.

“One of the dentists that worked in the clinic encouraged him to continue to come in as a patient because he was a positive patient experience for the students,” said Boyce, the clinic’s director.

The client told Boyce that he wanted to give back to the program because he appreciated what it had done for him.

“It makes me cry,” she said.

After thinking about which students would benefit most from a scholarship, Boyce came up with a plan.

Second-year students in the dental hygiene program need to spend around $1,800 on top of tuition to finish exams and get licensed before they can be employed.

While digging up that extra cash can be tough for almost any student, the donor said he’d like to target single mothers or others with extra financial needs.

“We had a couple students that are single moms,” Boyce said. “We looked at financial need and their work ethic, and I could not decide between the two.”

She passed the info along to the donor, and he agreed to double his contribution to provide both students with a Finish Strong Scholarship.

One of the other scholarships came from Boyce herself.

She was talking about the Finish Strong scholarships to a friend because she was “so excited” about it, and the friend pointed out that each of them had lost a spouse.

“He said, ‘Peg, we should give scholarships to your students. Let’s give one in each of our spouse’s names,’” Boyce said. “I’m like, okay, let’s do it.”

They then created the Sarah Shipley Scholarship and the Bud Boyce Scholarship.

Each of the four scholarships amounts to $1,500.

Boyce sent out the scholarships as complete surprises to the four students.

One never responded, so she started to get concerned.

“I finally said something to her about it and she put her head down and started crying,” Boyce said. “She said, ‘I couldn’t say anything to you because I know I’m going to cry. … I’ve been praying and praying for the money.’”

These are the first four scholarships specifically for dental hygiene students at Parkland.

Boyce also benefited from an education at Parkland: She attended when the dental hygiene program was only around 10 years old.

“The program has changed quite a bit because of the advancements of the profession of dentistry,” she said. “For instance, when I graduated we didn’t wear gloves or masks.”

That certainly isn’t the case today, as students put in hard work cleaning and sanitizing the clinic.

However, her first taste of the dental care profession came even before her time at Parkland, when she picked up an after-school job with a dentist in her hometown of Cissna Park.

“I wanted to be in health care, but I didn’t want to be a nurse,” Boyce said.

Working on a small team turned out to be a benefit, as did a regular schedule with no nights or weekends.

After graduating, Boyce started working as a dental hygienist in Paxton, but eventually she wanted something more and began teaching part time back at Parkland.

When the director’s position opened up, she went for it.

“I still stay connected with faculty that were my instructors, and they continued to be my mentors as I have gone into the role of director,” Boyce said. “As a student, I never thought I would sit in this office one day.”

Each year, the dental hygiene program is home to more than 70 students who take classes and work long days in the clinic, and Boyce is still teaching in both of those areas.

“We hold a high standard, but we also really try to support our students,” she said. “We want them to feel cared for, because we’re modeling how we want them to care for their patients.”

Her time at Parkland is nearly coming to an end, though: Boyce is getting ready to retire in December.

She has plans to travel wherever she can, whether it be across the United States or in other countries.

“Even though I love it here, it’s okay to let someone else be in charge,” Boyce said.

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