Give me a BSDH! | UNC Chapel Hill

Brooklyn Rushing, 22, is used to cheering for UNC-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 cheer again when she and her fellow members of the UNC 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 during a basketball game, chipping 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, her brother’s boyfriend’s father, repaired the damage, he invited Rushing to watch the procedure and even let her assist. “The part I loved the most was that after my brother had 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 through her college career in Carolina, Rushing thought she wanted to get her doctor of dental medicine. It was a happy surprise that Carolina completed a dental hygiene program. “This program has really shown me my love for the preventative side of dentistry rather than the restorative side,” she said.

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

Brooklyn Rushing as a toddler in a Carolina cheer outfit.

Rushing, the child of two Carolina cheerleaders, is a lifelong Tar Heel fan. That spirit and tradition inspired her to become a cheerleader, too. (submitted photo)

“Balancing the responsibilities between dental hygiene and cheerleading has been a challenge. I have had to improve my organizational skills,” said Rushing. “What has helped me is the great faculty in the program. I can lean on them and ask for help. They really helped me get through it.”

Rushing said she found great support in Jennifer Harmon, a clinical assistant professor at the dental school. “She was there for me every step of the way and answered my calls at all hours of the night. I look up to her and I’m excited about this relationship with her. It is one that will last a lifetime.”

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 for the school’s annual day of service to honor the lives of Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu-Salha, who were murdered 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 help people in minority communities,” she said. “It’s one of my goals and plans post-graduation. I want to volunteer to provide access and care to underserved communities.”

Until she finds a permanent job, Rushing will enjoy being with her parents, who have been by her side throughout her college career. But first she’s going to travel. Thanks to her aunt, she goes on a trip to Aruba with a cousin, who is also graduating. ‘You’ve worked so hard. I’m so proud that you’re graduating,” Rushing’s aunt told her.

In the meantime, 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 again.”

Read more about Brooklyn Rushing.