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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

“NEVER Give Up on Your Dream, No Matter How Old You Are!” Says Manila Malufau Graduate of Pharmacy Technology Program

March 19, 2024

Manila Malufau (“Maneela Malufow”) is 38 years old. Sixteen years ago, Manila enrolled in a school to become a Pharmacy Technician, something she had very clearly decided she wanted to do. But life had another plan. She was growing up and away from her parents and moved out of her family home. Somehow, she let go of that focus and never completed the training program. For years, she says, it lingered in the back of her mind. She always thought she would go back and finish school. But as the years wore on the dream faded, not for lack of wanting to, but because she became intimidated by thinking she was too old to do it.

But in growing up and out of her original family, Manila had someone in her life now who believed in her. Her wife knew it was always Manila’s dream to become a Pharmacy Technician, so she would support that dream by encouraging Manila despite her feelings of intimidation because of her age. They knew it would be hard, that Manila would have to leave at 5am every morning from California City and take a bus to arrive at her 7am class on the San Joaquin Valley College Lancaster campus. Manila graduated from the San Joaquin Valley College Pharmacy Technology program on November 30, 2023. She was already employed where she had externed, at the Rite Aid pharmacy in her hometown of California City. Her dream was on its way to becoming a reality – to become a pharmacist someday.

This is her story.


Tell me about your background.

I was born and raised in Long Beach, California. Both my parents are from Samoa; they emigrated here. I was the fourth in a line of six siblings. I don’t have any kids, but I do have five dogs!


How did you get interested in becoming a Pharmacy Technician?

After caring for my father and later on for my youngest sister, helping them every day with intake of their medications, my curiosity grew more and more: I wanted to know how the medicine helped them. Eventually I wanted to get into the field.


What were the challenges for you of going to school?

There were several. First, just getting there was hard. It’s a two-hour bus ride because of all the stops. I had to get up at 5am to catch the only bus which still made me late for my 7am class. I spoke to the advisor so they were aware; it put me back a letter grade, but I just didn’t have any other way to get there. The class was over at noon; I would stay at school and get tutoring until the bus left at 1:30pm.


Math was an area I never thought I was good at; I always thought it was tricky. At first, I didn’t think I could do it. The instructors were very patient and helpful. But by the time I got to the end of the program, I had built my confidence up so I could do it more easily and felt comfortable with it. My test and quiz scores got better. I was smarter in math than I thought I was!

I was also not a big computer person. I got the opportunity at SJVC to learn how to type, which helped me get through the rest.

And last, I still felt like I was the oldest person in class, which was intimidating because most everyone was in their ‘20’s and very familiar with technology. But I eventually became much better at learning to study on a laptop and then got my own home computer.



What keeps you going now?

Knowing that I always wanted to do this keeps me going. I had let so much time go by; I knew if I didn’t do it right now it wouldn’t happen. My wife was so supportive and my family were so excited. Plus, everyone on campus from the career services advisors to instructors to my peers would say every day I could do it because they were doing it too. If and when you ever felt like giving up, that classroom support was so important.


I’m told you were very determined to graduate! You maintained a very good communication throughout any adversity you experienced and showed true professionalism early on. Can you talk about that a little?

Yeah, being able to have that open communication with the school let me know I was doing okay. I took full advantage of that. Allowing me to communicate with them on all aspects of attending school really helped me gain confidence.


How is the job now? Is it what you thought it would be?

It’s the only pharmacy in town so it’s hectic but I love it! I chose this field because I wanted to know more about medicine and to help people. I like to know specifically what the medicine is helping, whether it’s a thyroid problem or blood pressure or whatever. I like to strike up a conversation with the patients.


Where do you see yourself in five, ten years?

I plan to become a pharmacist. I made that decision stepping into it.


What would you like to say to the potential student reading this article? What words of wisdom can you give them from your own experience?

Simple: whatever you put your mind to you can do it – and no matter what, don’t give up!


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