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High school dropout perseveres
From rags to Rx-pertBy David Pittman
Dixie Yearicks appeared to struggle to find the words for her school's director of admissions.
"I just want to say thank you for the opportunity," the usually articulate 31-year-old said before pausing.
Yearicks wasn't the average applicant to the Texas Tech University School of Pharmacy nearly four years ago.
The Pampa native dropped out of high school 15 years ago. She graduated from pharmacy school Saturday.
Fed up with struggling to support three children on a commission-based job, Yearicks went back to school, earned her General Educational Development diploma, then applied and was accepted to the pharmacy school in Amarillo.
"The first time I ever get to walk across a stage is Saturday," Yearicks said last week.
How does someone complete a demanding four-year doctorate program after failing to even graduate from high school?
Though driven to escape a harder life, Yearicks had to admit on every job application that she had no college education or even a high school diploma.
"Because I didn't go to college straight out of high school, I have a true appreciation for the value of an education just because we struggled," Yearicks said.
Yearicks, a thin, fair-skinned blonde, moved from Pampa to Midland when she was 15.
Her mom was laid off from her job just a year later and returned to school to become a radiation technician.
"She was having a hard time getting to school. We were having a hard time paying the bills," Yearicks said. "So I dropped out of school and got a job."
At 16, Yearicks walked to work every day to a barbecue restaurant in Midland. She spent the next eight years working jobs to make ends meet, telemarketing and contracting with insurance companies.
"It was so horrible," Yearicks said. "We were poor."
A year after giving birth to her third child, Yearicks decided enough was enough. She wanted to do something more with her life.
"So I decided I wanted to be a pharmacist," Yearicks said.
She spent two years fulfilling demanding prerequisites for pharmacy school, including microbiology and organic chemistry.
The Tech pharmacy school receives about seven applications for every one slot in its class, Admissions Director Michael Schwettmann said.
Most applicants boast impressive academic backgrounds. Few - like Yearicks - only carry a GED.
"I'd say Dixie's case is a very rare case," Schwettmann said.
"Really, it was a miracle when I got in," Yearicks said.
For the first 3½ of her four years in pharmacy school at Tech, Yearicks drove to and from her home in Pampa to classes in Amarillo. She completed it all while raising three children - Bekah, 12; Zoe, 11; and Elizabeth, 7.
"I remember telling my colleagues I expected this to be hard. But I didn't expect it to be this hard," Yearicks said. "I've cried on a couple of shoulders a time or two."
Yearicks never let obstacles get in the path of her goal. She ignored her detractors.
"Even if you make mistakes, it's never too late to make it right. Even if it's hard, if you just keep steady, if you just keep doing it, anything is possible," Yearicks said. "It was by no means easy, but it was possible."
Celebrate Education is a yearlong community project to encourage lifelong learning and help raise the education level in the Texas Panhandle.
Copyright 2008 Amarillo Globe-News :: Amarillo.com