Kaila Arnold, ’10, has been cheering her whole life, but next year she’s going to focus on just the smiling part. Arnold will attend Temple University’s Kornberg School of Dentistry this fall—but this isn’t quite what she had in mind when she arrived at Richmond.

“I’ve always been interested in math and the sciences. I’ve always been stronger in them,” Arnold said. “I’ve been pre-med since my freshman year, and I started out knowing I wanted to be a doctor and major in biochemistry. I never changed my major, but I did realize being a doctor wasn’t really for me.”

Arnold grew up in Lebanon, Pa., and attended Cedar Crest High School. Her sister was a cheerleader at Lafayette College, and when Arnold started seriously considering Richmond, the first thing she did was e-mail the cheerleading coach.

“It’s nice because everything else that I did in high school—track, field hockey, dance—I stopped when I came to college,” Arnold said. “Cheerleading is the one thing that I kept doing, and it was nice to keep busy and stay involved in something.

“I feel like when you have too much idle time you’re not as focused. I think cheerleading actually helped me remain focused on my work and get better grades because I’ve always been involved in a lot of activities. From that I’ve learned how to manage my time.”

Time is something few Richmond students have to spare, and Arnold said that even though a normal class day started at 8 a.m. and didn’t end until after cheerleading practice at 9:30 p.m., she wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Even with her hectic schedule and the research hours she put in with Dr. Jonathan Dattelbaum, Arnold decided to set aside some time her junior year to go abroad.

“I think I really changed my mind about being a doctor after I went abroad to Copenhagen,” Arnold said. “I was in the Medical Practice and Policy Program there, at the Danish Institute of Study Abroad."

Arnold said the more she talked and worked with doctors there, the more she realized that she was passionate about the medical field, but not necessarily being a doctor.

“Something switched in me when I went abroad,” Arnold said. “I just kind of questioned whether I was ready for the long road that medical school would involve. I just decided that maybe I wasn’t as passionate about it as I had thought, and I kind of wanted to be able to start my life a little bit earlier.”

Arnold’s father is a dentist, so when she returned from Denmark, she started shadowing him at his office. Arnold said that at first her dad questioned her a little bit, because he himself had gone through the process and knew the dedication required to succeed.

But succeed Arnold did. She fell in love with the artistry of the field.

“It was just completely different than what I expected,” Arnold said. “Dentistry has more of an artistic aspect to it, especially because you work so much with your hands. It’s more of an art because you’re involved with making the molds and it’s more precise with a lot of attention to detail.”

After researching and applying to numerous dental schools, Arnold interviewed at NYU, VCU, University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, and her father’s alma mater, University of Pittsburgh.

“When it came down to it I wanted somewhere closer to home,” Arnold said. “I live four and a half hours away right now and it doesn’t seem like that much, but traveling back and forth gets tough after a while.”

As far as cheerleading goes, Arnold said she plans to take a break for the next four years to focus solely on the demanding amount of schoolwork she’ll have. Eventually, she would like to get back into cheering through coaching, and maybe even start running track again.

“My most exciting cheering memory would have been when the football team won the championships last year, but of course that was the year I went abroad!” Arnold said. “I don’t regret it at all, but I still remember sitting at home in my living room watching the game, wishing I could have been there. Being able to cheer at the NCAA tournament for the basketball game was pretty amazing as well.”

Arnold has definitely had a full four years at Richmond, but she’s even more excited about the years to come.

“I’m ready for a change of pace in learning,” Arnold said. “I’m ready to start the rest of my life, and everything I’m going to be learning in dental school is going to be exactly what I’m going to be doing for my whole life.”