Dr. Jaya Nelson

Dr. Jaya Nelson


Dr. Jaya Nelson Polishes a Smile for Success

When Dr. Jaya Nelson first dreamed of college, she thought she would be a Dental Hygienist. Then the Danville native volunteered in the dental office of Dr. Jane Cooney through the AIMS program for two summers and after school her senior year. The AIM program is geared toward giving real-world experience to high school students interested in any medical field. By the time she graduated from Danville High School in 2004, her goal changed to becoming a dentist.

In addition to working for Dr. Cooney, Jaya played basketball and ran track for DHS, while helping to caring for an ailing grandmother. Jaya chose to attend Danville Area Community College initially because she was offered a scholarship to run and she wasn’t ready to leave her family, particularly her grandmother. Additionally, she continued working for Dr. Cooney, gaining valuable career experience and professional connections. Her parents, Eva and Jerome Nelson, Sr., both of whom were DACC alums, were very supportive of her decision. 

“DACC offered the general education courses I needed, a scholarship that would pay my tuition, and I could stay home with my family,” she remembered. “Knowing my education was going to stretch beyond the traditional four years, and be much more expensive, the cost savings was very attractive.”

Her coach was the first to stress completion of the Associate of Science and Arts transfer degree. “Coach said to make sure we finished the degree and didn’t simply transfer with credits. Transfer schools were more likely to award full credit for a completed degree while they might pick and choose individual transfer credits without a degree,” she stated.

After graduating from DACC in 2006, Jaya transferred to Indiana University Purdue University in Indianapolis to complete her Bachelor’s in General Studies. Comparing the schools, Jaya had an opinion about the diversity and size of her classes at DACC. “At IUPUI you were just a number because the classes were so big. DACC classes provided a good learning foundation, with smaller class sizes, while introducing me to new people and experiences. If you end up with the same people at DACC that you went to high school with, then you aren’t expanding and making the most of your experience!”

From IUPUI, she entered the Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry, a Historically Black College in Nashville, TN. In addition to her traditional studies, Jaya was able to participate in volunteer projects like a summer 2013 mission trip to provide free dental services in Jamaica. Her educational choices were closely guided by her “dental parents,” Dr. Stephen Towns and Dr. Jeanette Holloway, who acted as professional mentors.

After a year-long residency at St. Elizabeth Mental Hospital in Washington, DC, Jaya began looking for a job that would bring her home. She found a permanent home at Danville Family Dental Care, a division of Heartland Dental.  “I thank God for my educational and professional success,” she stated. “My family’s prayer and support were vital to my achievements.”

As a professional with experience at several educational institutions, Jaya has a unique perspective on the benefits of attending DACC. “I would strongly recommend starting college at DACC,” she said. “It gave me a chance to get used to college life while saving money on what would be an extended education. I didn’t owe anything when I graduated from DACC, which was a big help when I started paying out-of-state and graduate tuition.”