Dental Assisting Student Keeps Grandmother’s Advice Close at Manor College: Never Stop Learning

Afreen Snaha (Philadelphia/School Lane Charter School) is a sophomore studying Expanded Functions Dental Assisting at Manor College.

One of Aktari Bgum’s signature dishes is a chutney. The grandmother affectionately known as Nani would grind mint leaves, basil leaves and cilantro between two stones. The grind produced a paste that combines with chilis and spices. It’s then paired with rice and chicken.

For Afreen Snaha, making chutney – a traditional dish from Bengladesh – became a fun learning experience. It also served as time spent with her grandmother. 

“It would be nice to sit on the kitchen floor with her going at it,” Snaha said. “When I was young, if I wasn’t making progress with my grind, she’d take over and help me finish.” 

Bgum became more than a grandmother to Snaha. Bgum took care of Snaha and her siblings while Snaha’s parents worked full time jobs. For seven years, Bgum roomed with her granddaughter.

Snaha remembers the comforting moments, like how Bgum always read the Quran. Keeping with Bengali customs, Bgum rinsed her hands with water and collected it onto her dinner plate. She then drank the water so as to not waste anything. 

Bgum died in 2016 after a bout with cancer. Before she passed, Bgum left Snaha with her greatest lesson: Never stop learning

She tried to learn English in her 50s and constantly asked Snaha how to say different words as they laid in their room at night.

“She’d always tell me, ‘Never stop where you are,’” Snaha said, “‘Always keep going. Why would you stop where you are? You can always grow and become something you never realized you could become.’”


Taking those lessons to heart, Snaha enrolled at Manor College in the Fall 2022 semester. Her initial goal was a degree in Dental Hygiene. As she discovered more about the dental field in her Allied Health classes, Snaha grew an appreciation for Expanded Functions Dental Assisting (EFDA). 

EFDAs perform reversible dental procedures. This includes taking radiographs, fabricating temporary crowns and working with composite restorations. 

“With EFDA, it’s more hands-on and creative,” Snaha said. “When you’re an EFDA and someone comes in with a cavity on different parts of the tooth, the situation calls for a different type of remodeling to restore it.”

Snaha believes there’s a service element to EFDA work, a trait she embodies from her parents. 

“You’re in this position where you get to help other people get their smile,” Snaha said. “Some people think it’s just teeth, but having a beautiful smile gives you more social confidence. I would love to help somebody who doesn’t feel confident coming in, but leaves feeling so confident.” 

At Manor, Snaha has found her career goal of becoming a dentist, but also found the support needed in order to make that happen. During her freshman year when her grades began to slip, Jaime Simpson, Dean of Allied Health Services spoke with Snaha about her performance. 

“She helped me get into the EFDA program and laid out a plan for success,” Snaha said. “She never once said I couldn’t do it. She always said to try your best in a way that made me believe that she knew I could do it.” 

When times get tough, Snaha thinks back on her Nani’s advice. 

“I know she would be so happy and proud of me,” Snaha said of Bgum. “She would be so proud and tell me to never stop growing. She helps give me confidence to know that I can do bigger things.”

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