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Brooke Wilson

Age: 17

Birthplace: Petaluma Valley Hospital

Lives with: Parents, Dan and Diane Wilson, and older sister, Joy

Music she listens to on her computer: Alternative and classical

Favorite hobby: Drawing, riding her bike and playing computer games

Dream job: Dental hygienist

Favorite TV show: 'House'

Favorite food: Chicken bakes from Costco's food court

Quote: 'All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.' — Edgar Allan Poe

Brooke Wilson skipped time at the pool and cruising on her bicycle to spend part of her summer riding city buses.

The 17-year-old Rohnert Park resident was one of about four dozen kids from the Bay Area selected this year for an internship program sponsored by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission that gave high-schoolers an opportunity to work for local transit, planning and public works agencies.

Her job was to update Petaluma’s transit database, Wilson said. She set out to track every bus stop in the city that had a bench, shelter and sign. Although it wasn’t a cushy job, she never complained about sitting on a bus all day.

“I got to meet random, fun people,” said Wilson, who is a senior at Technology High School, a magnet school that boasts the county’s top academic scores.

Wilson said she also spent time this summer working at the city’s Ellis Creek Water Recycling Facility, where she went out with employees on restaurant grease-trap inspections. She said they used a device called a “Sludge Judge” to measure the build-up in the traps, a task aimed at preventing grease from entering the city’s wastewater system.

“I got a lot of hands-on,” she said.

The program allowed her to explore different career possibilities. But she discovered she didn’t want to be a transportation engineer. Nor did she want to drive buses or inspect grease traps for a living. She’d prefer to clean teeth.

After completing her internship with the city, she started volunteering for a dentist. Her mind is now set on becoming a dental hygienist.

She has spent four days a week at Dr. Von Chan’s office in Petaluma, watching dental hygienists scale and polish teeth, Wilson said. She’s also helped clean and prepare the rooms for patients and stuff dental floss and toothbrushes into “goody” bags.

Wilson thought about becoming a dentist — but only for a brief moment.

“I watched the dentist put a crown on,” she said. “That’s when I learned I didn’t want to be a dentist.”

Wilson, who likes to draw and has sold sketches for $5 to $15 apiece to earn money for dental school, said she gets satisfaction from cleaning and likes working with her hands.

She hopes to get into the dental-hygiene program at Santa Rosa Junior College after she graduates from high school. She said she’ll be taking an English class this fall at the college to cross off some prerequisites and prepare for the dental-hygiene program.

Chan said Wilson is one of the youngest people to intern at her office. It’s unusual to find teens like Wilson who are confident, motivated and focused on their career aspirations, added Chan, who decided she wanted to be a dentist when she was in junior high.

“She’s very determined,” Chan said. “She knows what she wants to do.”

But she hasn’t always been confident.

Wilson, who has played volleyball and competed in swimming and diving for years, said she struggled with her self-esteem after some classmates bullied her in eighth- and ninth-grade.

“I didn’t like how I looked and how I felt,” she said.

But she overcame it, she said, with the help of her mother, Diane Wilson, who often reminded her that “hurt people hurt people.”

“They took it out on me by putting me down,” the teen said. “But it helped me grow. I learned that I need to love myself.”

Wilson, who later this month will be a head volleyball coach for fifth-graders at Our Lady of Loretto School in Novato, keeps a list of 13 resolutions on her bedroom wall next to magazine clippings of her “idol” John Green, author of “The Fault in Our Stars. The resolutions encourage her, for example, to “accept not everyone is going to like you” and “give more, expect less.”

Donna McKenna, who coached Wilson in volleyball at Technology High and Creekside Middle School, which is now Lawrence Jones Middle School, said,

“She’s a very focused young lady.” She added that dental hygiene would be a good fit for Wilson, who previously helped her coach middle-school volleyball players.

“They’re a little like therapists,” she said. “I can see Brooke getting established in something like dental hygiene. She likes people and takes pride in her work.”

You can reach Staff Writer Eloísa Ruano González at 521-5458 or eloisa.gonzalez@pressdemocrat.com.

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