Monday, December 17, 2007

Dental Assisting Program Receives National Accreditation

Rio Salado College’s online dental assisting program recently received its national accreditation, but for patients at the Central Arizona Shelter Systems, a dental clinic serving the homeless, the students chairside manner is what really counts.
Students in the only online accredited program in the country spend part of their required 300-hour internship serving as dental assistants at the downtown Phoenix clinic. The students work with more than 300 patients a month gaining valuable skills while providing dental care for those who can’t afford it.
The Rio Salado students are an important part of the CASS clinic, said Kris Volcheck, the center’s director.
Rio students come well-prepared to assist so dentists don’t spend more time training assistants than working with patients, said Volcheck.
Some students find the volunteer experience so satisfying that they stay on at the clinic. After spending countless hours as a volunteer, Rio Salado graduate Annette Chunn works full-time at the clinic as the office manager. She’s become a key member of the staff.
“Annette has made all the difference in my ability to serve the homeless,” said Volcheck.
The state-of-the-art clinic has a reputation for excellence so students completing their certification are well received in the job market, said Chunn.
Working at the clinic with 400 volunteer dentists and hygienists is an excellent opportunity for students since the clinic does all kinds of dentistry. Plus, students are exposed to a number of job opportunities as they work with hundreds of professionals in the field.
Chunn spent 24 years in the grocery industry and a stint caring for her father-in-law with dementia before entering the dental assisting field. A trip to the dentist in which she was forced to act as the dental assistant for her father-in-law set her on the path.
“My father-in-law would not allow anyone else to help and the dentist told me I would make a great dental assistant,” said Chunn
Intrigued, Chunn began researching schools and found the Rio Salado online dental assisting program.
“It fit me perfectly. I was home, sequestered with my father-in-law, with my dinning room table as my lab. I had online support 24/7 and access to teachers when I needed them,” said Chunn
Upon completion of her online classes and internship at CASS, Chunn chose to continue at the clinic.
“It’s just the whole idea of what they are doing here,” said Chunn who admits those in need have always had a special place in her heart.
“There is such a need for people who care and really want to help those who are different,” said Chunn.
The recent national accreditation is an important milestone for the program. The school received the highest possible accreditation from the Commission on Dental Accreditation of the American Dental Association. The accreditation is good for seven years. Dental assisting classes begin every January, April, August and November. There are many job opportunities for graduates of the program.
“I can’t keep up with the demand the job market is so strong,” said Nicole Albo, Rio Salado College dental assisting faculty chair.Rio Salado College has 450 online classes with start dates every week. The college offers degrees and certificates in business, education, healthcare, law enforcement and more. For more information call 480-517-8540 or go to for registration go to www

Friday, December 7, 2007

AARP and Rio Salado College partner for 50+ Worker

(Surprise, AZ) -- Earlier this year, AARP Arizona and Rio Salado College announced a joint effort to offer a four-part pilot series of classes on 50+ worker issues that are to be launched at the Rio Salado College Lifelong Learning Center in Surprise.

On Tuesday, December 11, AARP and Rio Salado Community College officials will host a forum for local area employers in which they will unveil the pilot series of 50+ Worker curriculum that is set to launch at the College in March. The curriculum will be divided into two parts, one program will be offered to employers who are interested in learning more about issues affecting the 50+ workforce. The second part will be specific classes that are tailored to 50+ workers who are interested in retooling their skills or looking to re-career. The classes will be offered on-line or in a traditional classroom setting.

AARP Arizona State Director David Mitchell believes the timing for the launch of the new curriculum is on target with demographic shifts which are beginning to take place in today’s workforce. “There are three important trends that are starting to have a dramatic impact on the future of our country’s workforce,” said Mitchell. “Number one - our workforce is aging. Number two - labor shortages are projected in a growing number of economic sectors and number three - many workers are intending to continue to work beyond their traditional retirement age. All of this points to the importance of keeping and attracting 50+ workers.”

It’s estimated that over 34 percent of the U.S. workforce will be 50 and over by 2012. “As more baby boomers turn 60, attracting and retaining skilled workers will become critical if employers want to retain a competitive edge,” Mitchell added.

In AARP’s landmark report, The Business Case for Workers Age 50+, it was found that 58% of human resource managers said it is more difficult today than it was five years ago to find qualified job applicants. More than half also said that their companies are likely to face a shortage of qualified workers within the next five years.

“It’s our responsibility as a community college to address local workforce needs,” said Todd Aakhus, Director of the Rio Salado College Lifelong Learning Center. “One of the fastest growing segments of community college education is non-credit classes like workforce training. These classes focus on contemporary issues that are relevant to our local populations. One of the fastest growing demographics in community college education is our older students and we want to be responsive and address their needs.”

The employer breakfast forum hosted by AARP and Rio Salado College will be held on Tuesday, December 11 from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. at Rio Salado College, 12535 Smokey Drive in Surprise.

“At the forum, AARP and Rio Salado College want to help employers understand that they will have to address aging, from a labor-force perspective and from a consumer perspective because these trends cannot be ignored.” Mitchell added. “At the same time, AARP and Rio Salado College want to provide resources, information and learning opportunities to help them and 50+ workers meet their employment goals.”

AARP has over 848,000 members in Arizona. AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. We produce AARP The Magazine, published bimonthly; AARP Bulletin, our monthly newspaper; AARP Segunda Juventud, our bimonthly magazine in Spanish and English; NRTA Live & Learn, our quarterly newsletter for 50+ educators; and our Web site, AARP Foundation is our affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Rio Salado, the largest of the Maricopa Community Colleges in terms of headcount, serves more than 48,000 credit students and an additional 14,000 non-credit students annually. Known as “the college within everyone’s reach ™,” Rio Salado focuses on general education and courses for university transfer, applied programs for workforce development, and adult basic education. Popular learning formats include online classes, on-site classes at major Valley employers, and accelerated courses and programs.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Science Classes Including Biology Are Always Open At Rio

More than 6,000 students click their way through virtual reality science labs at Rio Salado College.
From the comfort of their home students study chemical reactions and view microscopic specimens through the lens of a high powered microscope in a dozens or so biology, chemistry, anatomy and microbiology classes.

They gaze at the stars in astronomy, examine rock specimens for geology, study genetics in allied health and dissect cadavers in a virtual lab as part of Rio Salado’s extensive online science and health classes.

Instead of spending hours gloved up with protective eyewear in a lab filled with strong smelling chemicals, students work at their kitchen table or view a computer screen.
“All they have to do is click and learn. We take the extra time to get everything set so they can spend time on content,” said Shannon Corona, residential faculty at Rio Salado College.
“We cover the same content as the other colleges, we just do it online,” said Corona.
Unlike surrounding colleges, where finding an open biology or anatomy class can be near impossible, Rio Salado’s health and science classes are always open and start throughout the semester.

“In the first couple months of a semester we start class every two weeks, the last two months start dates go to once a month,” said Corona. Students who are turned off by smells or doing the live dissection enjoy the online labs, said Corona.

According to Corona there is a huge demand for human anatomy and physiology, chemistry and microbiology, classes required before students enter nursing, dental hygiene and other related health programs.

Classes are also available in health related subjects like medical terminology, health care delivery and wellness and safety. Rio Salado student Kristin Lannucci’s goal is to someday be a nurse. She’s been diligently working on her goal for more than five years, chipping away on a long list of prerequisites while caring for her four children ranging in age from eight to one.
She’s nearly done, having completed all her medical prerequisites online at Rio Salado College.
“It thought it would be a lot easier for my family to do my classes online,” said Lannucci, who found she got just as much out of the online labs as she did those in person.

“I love the college and the opportunity to take classes online,” said Lannucci.
Even students thousands of miles away find the college’s online classes a great benefit.
Student Mark Sussman completed 32 credits including his prerequisites to enter physician assistant school while on active duty for the military in Afghanistan.

“It’s a great way for a soldier to get ahead without the hassles of going to night school,” said Sussman.
Students who are self-motivated, comfortable about asking questions and have good time management skills do well in online classes, said Cornona.

Students can enroll in classes now. Rio Salado College, one of 10 fully-accredited Maricopa County community colleges serving Phoenix and its surrounding communities, has long been recognized as a leader in providing distant-learning instruction. Located in Tempe, Ariz., Rio Salado has 450 online classes with start dates every week. The college offers degrees and certificates in business, education, healthcare, law enforcement and more. For registration or more information call 480-517-8540 or go to