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Reflections: Alumnus Diane Southwick shares her JCCC Dental Hygiene reunion memories.

I was beginning to feel like I was the only person who has never been to Destin, Florida.

I’ve heard so many people go on and on about the beautiful emerald water and beaches as white as snow. And after a day of playing in the sun, how the breeze from the Gulf is perfect company while sitting out on a balcony enjoying a beautiful sunset.  It always sounded like a dream.

What could be better?

Well the answer to that is celebrating your dental hygiene graduation 36 years ago. And doing it in Destin surrounded by the emerald water, the white sand and the beautiful sunsets. Those were just a bonus.

There were 21 of us in the class of ’81. I’m pretty sure this is not a unique thought but we felt like we were a special class. We all got along, we liked each other. And you know how valuable that is going through dental hygiene school. We were there for each other; we laughed and we cried.

Then we graduated and scattered throughout the United States. Besides seeing each other at an occasional CE meeting, we did have reunions in the early years. But as time marched on and everyone got busy with their lives – not that there weren’t good intentions – but the reunions just didn’t happen.

Thanks to Facebook, one-by-one we started connecting. We’ve been liking each other’s family vacation photos, commenting about how adorable grandchildren are, and sending encouragement during challenging times.

One day Cheryl Ledford Gladney, aka Miss Awesome, sent us all a Facebook invite to her condo in Destin. After a bit of planning it happened. Seven of us spent the better part of a wonderful week together reminiscing and reconnecting. It should come as no surprise that when you’ve made lifelong friends you just pick up where you left off.

In this day and age of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email…. it is easy to stay in touch and to be engaged. Emojis are cute but they can’t replace the real thing. Simply, nothing beats sitting side-by-side around a table laughing about the things that used to keep you up at night (clinic check outs), comparing career paths (working for Hu-Friedy….cool), bragging on our families (even ours pets are perfect) and staying up past midnight talking (about those who didn’t attend) and eating junk food (M&M’s).  For me the real attraction in Destin wasn’t the breathtaking beaches it was Cheryl, Lori, Diane, Marlene, Yvonne and Rona. The big hug I got from each of them was priceless.

And realizing that there’s so much more to appreciate about each other than whether or not someone would be a good study partner or be helpful in a clinic. It was about lifelong friendships that will never end.

-Diane Southwick ’81

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