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۰ͼ

Give me a B-S-D-H!

Cheerleader Brooklyn Rushing is getting a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene.

Brooklyn Rushing sitting on a bench wearing a Carolina Blue dress and a white lab coat.
Brooklyn Rushing's interest in dentistry began when her brother chipped his front teeth during a basketball game. "I saw how your smile affected your personality, and it sparked my interest in dentistry," she said. (Adams School of Dentistry)

Brooklyn Rushing, 22, is used to cheering for ۰ͼ-Chapel Hill, first as a baby Tar Heel and later as a member of the school’s cheerleading team. On May 9, the dental hygiene student will be cheering again as she and her fellow members of the ۰ͼ Adams School of Dentistry’s Class of 2024 graduate at Carmichael Arena.

Her journey to this achievement began many years ago, when her brother took an elbow to the face in a basketball game and chipped his front teeth.

“He was a completely different person after it happened. He wouldn’t smile and was really embarrassed,” Rushing said of her brother. When the dentist, the father of her brother’s friend, repaired the damage, he invited Rushing to see the procedure, even letting her assist. “The part I loved the most was after my brother got his tooth fixed, he was himself again. I saw how your smile affected your personality, and it sparked my interest in dentistry.”

Throughout high school in Raleigh and into her college career at Carolina, Rushing thought she wanted to get her Doctor of Dental Surgery. Discovering that Carolina had a dental hygiene program was a happy surprise. “This program has really shown me my love for the preventive side of dentistry instead of the restorative,” she said.

Rushing also credits her dental hygiene class and the faculty and staff members that have supported her along the way as she balanced the responsibilities of school and as a proud Carolina cheerleader. As the child of two former Carolina cheerleaders, Rushing had grown up hearing stories about the good times her parents had and craved a similar college experience.

Brooklyn Rushing collage image of her wearing a cheerleader outfit as a toddler next to her in full cheerleader regalia at ۰ͼ football stadium.

The child of two Carolina cheerleaders, Rushing has been a Tar Heel fan for life. That spirit and tradition inspired her to be a cheerleader, too. (submitted photo)

“It’s been a challenge to balance the responsibilities between dental hygiene and cheerleading. I’ve had to improve my organizational skills,” Rushing said. “The thing that helped me is the amazing faculty in the program. I can lean on them and ask them for help. They’ve really helped me get through.”

Rushing said she found wonderful support in Jennifer Harmon, a clinical assistant professor in the dental school. “She has been there for me every step of the way, answered my phone calls at all times of night. I look up to her, and I’m excited to have this relationship with her. It’s one that will be lifelong.”

Rushing developed strong bonds with her fellow dental hygiene students, volunteering with them on Habitat for Humanity projects and introducing them to her cheerleader friends. They all volunteered together for the school’s annual day of service honoring the lives of Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu-Salha, who were killed in 2015. Rushing hopes to keep that community spirit alive in her career, as she plans to focus on improving access to care for underserved populations.

“As a minority, I can bring a unique perspective, and I can help people in minority communities,” she said. “It’s one of my goals and plans, postgrad. I want to volunteer for access and care to underserved communities.”

Until she finds a permanent position, Rushing will enjoy being with her parents, who have stood by her throughout her college career. But first she will travel. Courtesy of her aunt, she will join a cousin, who’s also graduating, on a trip to Aruba. “You’ve worked so hard. I’m so proud you’re graduating,” Rushing’s aunt told her.

Meanwhile, she has some advice for younger students. “Stay the course. Focus. Ask for help when you need it,” she said. “Have fun and enjoy it because it goes by so quickly. I wish I could do it all over again.”