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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Two little girls keep Pharmacy Tech student going

December 30, 2013
Now the sole breadwinner for her family, Paula wanted to set an example and provide well for her two daughters.

Every day Paula Askari wakes up, straightens her narrow shoulders and prepares for the arduous routine that will bring her one step closer to her dream of a job she loves and financial security. She looks at the two little girls who are the focal point of her efforts: 3-year old Layla and 1-year old Natalie.

“I want the girls to have more than I had,” says Paula. “I want them to look back at this and say, ‘My mom went back to school and took care of us.’”

On their own since April, this little family of three has had plenty of uncertainties and the isolating stresses of a newly broken family. But when one thing is lost, it seems, something good can come in to fill the space.

Paula knew that her hope for positive change hinged to a great extent upon getting an education. After working as a bank teller for four years, she had been a stay-at-home mom for almost a year. Now it was up to her to be the primary provider for her girls. The long, slow promotional ladder in the banking industry was not going to take care of their most immediate needs.

Paula’s good friend, Pharmacy Technology student Christina, invited her to a Friends and Family Night at SJVC’s Lancaster campus. Paula had finished her Financial Aid process earlier and was looking for the right education opportunity. During the presentation and tour, Paula realized that this was something she could see herself doing.

“I love to help others and was drawn to the medical field, but as a Pharmacy Technologist I wouldn’t have to be in direct contact with patients and poking them and all the bloody stuff,” she says. “Plus, there’s the job security; it’s always going to be there.” She enrolled in the program.

The second light that rushed in to fill the dark was Paula’s sister, Melissa, and their father, Ray, who live several miles away. Melissa keeps wonderful care of Layla and Natalie while Paula is in class.

“It’s a long day and I spend a lot of my day driving,” says Paula. But, the hardest part is leaving her daughters. “It breaks my heart to leave them, and Layla asks me to please stay.”

The emotional price is high, but the outcome will give them all the better life they deserve.

Paula buckled down and devoted herself to her studies. She was initially shocked at how many medications and labels had to be memorized. It wasn’t long before she got her rhythm with homework, studies, exams and new modules. The first time she found herself on the Dean’s List and the recipient of a Perfect Attendance certificate, she was elated.

“Paula strives to reach her full potential and is committed to doing her best,” says Lindsay Sapp, Pharmacy Tech instructor. “She constantly seeks new challenges and never fails to take responsibility for her learning.”

Paula looks for inspiration and encouragement, and when she finds something that touches her heart and lifts her spirit…she puts it on the refrigerator. Right now, lyrics from a “Jesus Culture” song sustain her.

Higher than the mountains that I face,

Stronger than the power of the grave,

Constant through the trial and the change,

One thing remains.

Your love never fails, never gives up,

Never runs out on me. 

Paula has enough of what she needs to make it through to graduation in February, 2014…and beyond.

She knows it may never be easy, but it is sure to be easier. She keeps her focus on tomorrow.

“It’s been up and down, an emotional rollercoaster,” says Paula. “The girls are going through so much and school has been hard on all of us. But, we’re sacrificing a little bit now so that later on they’ll have more of my time.”

Paula has figured out an awful lot in her 23-years.

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