Nineteen-year-old Hesperia ROP Dental Assisting students Jeff Granfield and Alex Rodriguez have good reason for their big, toothy smiles.


The talented duo recently brought back top awards from the state dental assisting competition in Sacramento. Granfield, who graduated last year from Sultana High, took first place while Rodriguez, a product of Silverado High School in Victorville, won second place.


And their stellar showing points to extremely bright futures.


"I've always been interested in being a dentist," said Rodriguez.


An exceptionally talented artist and basketball player, Granfield is eyeing a dental hygenist career.


According to ROP instructor Barbara Bonner, the Hesperia dental program can help students get started on lucrative and fulfilling careers in dentistry. While similar programs at a four-year college would cost around $20,000, Bonner says the local, which meets all professional certification requirements, costs a student less than $700.


"It's a great benefit to anyone who wants to take it," she said. "It's probably the best stepping stone for continuing in your education."


And while it is open to any adult, local high school students 16 or over get first priority. Classes are almost always full, Bonner added.


After graduating, Granfield and Rodriguez will move on to Victor Valley College to take additional college-level prerequisites. Then they will go to a four-year university. Both students hope to get into the University of Southern California or the University of Loma Linda dental schools.


But before they move on, they will compete in the national dental assisting competition June 23-29 in Nashville, Tenn. While potentially lucrative careers await them down the road, they will need to raise traveling expenses while they are still students.


An orientation for high school students 16 or over will be held at 3 p.m. on May 4 in room 17 at the Hesperia ROP facility on Lemon. For more information on the Hesperia ROP Dental Assisting program, call 244-1771, ext. 140.