LOS ANGELES (KABC) --A USC pilot program became a life changer for 18-year old Tatiana Beamon.
"For me, growing up in the inner city - it's tough. It is rough. You have to stick to your needs instead of the wants that you have," Beamon said.
What Beamon needed was a job. So on Friday the high school senior became a credentialed dental assistant. Her starting pay is $12 an hour and her skill set is in high demand.
"There is a huge scarcity, all dental offices are on the lookout for good assistants," Westwood dentist Dr. Michael Schneider said.
Schneider is one of many Trojan alumnus supporting a pilot program administered by USC Civic Engagement.
Dozens of low income teens are in the pipeline, attending class in the evenings and on Saturdays.
"They have been extremely diligent to come night after school and we are very proud of them for doing that," said Theda Douglas, vice president of USC Government Partnerships and Programs.
Beamon confessed she was squeamish about dentistry, and Dr. Schneider said the job isn't for everyone.
"I have had some standout students. I have had students who pass out when they see a procedure. That's also important to learn," he said.
But Tatiana's universe shifted when she saw patients in pain leaving with a smile.
"It kind of warms your heart a little bit to know you were able to help that person to be a lot more comfortable and just happy. Straight happy. It is beautiful," she said.
Now, she is smiling, too. Five years after her mother died, she's able to help her grandmother with bills and sees herself taking on even more challenges - possibly law school.
"My confidence level has elevated, my pride, my comfort of just being out in the real world. No one can stop me," she said.