celebrate education - brought to you by the amarillo globe-news

High school dropout perseveres

From rags to Rx-pert

By 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.

calendar of events
  • January 11
    Kickoff of 2009 Program
    Find out what Celebrate Education is all about in this special section in your Sunday paper.
  • March 7
    Regional Spelling Bee, West Texas A&M University
    The annual Regional Spelling Bee will feature the top spellers from the Amarillo area. The top five winners will receive scholarship money ranging from $500 to $5,000 and the winner will travel to Washington, D.C., in June to represent the area in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
  • Spring and Fall
    Amarillo Reads community-wide reading projects.
    Dates and details TBA
  • April
    Amarillo Education Matching Grants Program. Exact date TBA
  • April 10
    What's a Kid to Do Special Section
  • April 12
    What's a Kid to Do at the Amarillo Civic Center
    This event will focus on activities and camps for children to participate in during the summer..
  • May 8-29
    Beating the Odds
    A series of stories published daily in the Amarillo Globe-News during the graduation season that profiles people who have inspiring stories to tell about the degree they are about to receive.
  • May 12
    Ready for the Real World program at Amarillo Civic Center
    AISD juniors get training on what's going to face them in a little more than a year.
  • May 16
    Best and Brightest Special Section
  • May 16
    Best and Brightest Event at West Texas A&M University
  • Fall
    Discover College Day
    Fifth graders from area schools visit college campuses.
  • October 1
    Great Jobs Special Section
    Focusing on well paying jobs available in the area that people may not know about.
  • November 2
    Career Education Special Section
    Focusing on businesses and others in the community helping young people gain a career vision.
  • November
    Yes You Can Event
    Designed to help people gain information about the next level of education from GED to PhD. Date TBA.
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