Many of the women who attend Caroline Center enter this world with the deck squarely stacked against them. Many, but not all. Take, for example, Caroline Center graduate, Quy’an (pronounced Kwan-yun) or “Q” as she is called by just about everybody. Q grew up on Long Island, New York in a relatively stable family environment. Though her parents divorced when Q was 12 years old, to this day they remain “best friends” and – more importantly – strong and positive influences in Q’s life. She describes her mother as a “hard worker” and recalls (with a smile) how her father constantly nagged her about schoolwork and admonished her to “keep her head in the books.” Their good example and advice paid off. After the divorce, Q moved with her mother to North Carolina where she graduated from high school and attended college, financed primarily by student loans. She loved school and declared a double major in Forensic Biology and Criminal Justice, with the goal of joining the FBI upon graduation.
“I’m a planner. And I had my life all planned out,” Q explained proudly.
But as we all know, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” The stacked deck that Q had been fortunate enough to avoid when she entered the world, suddenly rose up in her path, blocking her view of the future and shattering her dreams. She was in her last semester of senior year when diagnosed with a rare and debilitating blood disorder. Q was rushed to the hospital where she remained for a month. Eventually, she fell behind in her studies and sadly, just 2 months shy of graduation and a promising career, Q had to drop out of college. What’s worse, unable to work, she defaulted on her student loans. Unmoored and with her plan in shambles, Q left North Carolina and moved in with her mother, who, by this time, had relocated to Baltimore. Perhaps there, Q could start over. As it turns out, however, Plan B would have to wait because, Fate, with all its challenges and mystery, had not quite finished wreaking havoc on Q’s life. Not long after she arrived in Baltimore, Q was also diagnosed with Lupus, a cruel and chronic autoimmune disease. While most of her doctors concurred that Q’s 2 afflictions were related, it was not easy to connect the dots and so, it took some time to get her health under control and her life in order. Understandably, Q fell into a deep depression.
“I admit it. For the longest time, I wallowed in self-pity. I just felt like nothing I planned was going to work out. I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. I wasn’t working. I was in default on my student loans. I was a mess,” Q admitted, staring at the floor, lost in reverie and squirming in her seat a bit at the bitter memory. “But eventually,” Q explained as she looked up with a resilient grin, “I told myself to ‘snap out of it!’ ”
“And how exactly did you do that?” I asked with equal parts incredulity and admiration.
“I got a Plan C!” Q explained matter-of-factly, as if it were all just that simple. “It didn’t make sense to go back to school and complete my major because with my health issues, I’d never get a job with the FBI. Besides, I had no means to pay for anything, much less college. And I had these student loans that weren’t going to pay themselves off, so I had to come up with another plan. I’ve always loved science and eventually I became interested in Pharmacy. So I looked for a good pharmacy technology training program.”
Enter Caroline Center.
“Their program is tuition free. Which is great. But that’s not all. They helped me refocus, set new goals. Honestly? Caroline Center saved me,” Q said with conviction. “They saved me from myself.” Q began to tear up as she recalled her time at Caroline Center. “The learning part was great. I worked really hard and aced all my tests. But it was the counseling that really turned things around for me. I tell all my friends who are skeptical about counseling, ‘Try it.’ I’m telling you. Counseling works.” She dabbed at her eyes as she continued. “Sr. Kennedy? Let me tell you. Sr. Kennedy saved my life. She lifted a weight off my shoulders. Caroline Center made all the difference.”
After completing the course and becoming certified as a Pharmacy Technician, Q also became immediately and gainfully employed. Plan C? Accomplished. On to Plan D: Get a degree. Today, Q is back in school and getting her degree in science and math. She will graduate in May, 2014. Plan C is so yesterday. But wait. There’s more. Recently, Q was awarded a Judy Family scholarship which will help pay for her education as she continues on in a doctoral program upon graduation this spring.
“You think you might get your doctoral degree and become a pharmacist?” I asked in genuine amazement.
“Not might. Will,” Q corrected me. In fact, Q has already taken the PCAT’s (the PCAT’s are to Pharmacy School what the MCAT’s are to Med School) and done quite well. “It’s just a matter of deciding which school to go to,” Q added.
“You’re quite remarkable, Q. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”
“Well, I’ll be a pharmacist by then. Hopefully, own my own home. And probably paying for college all over again because my oldest daughter will be just about ready to go!”
“And after that? Any more plans?”
“I think that’s enough planning for a while,” Q laughed. “But my goal? My life goal is to be a good role model for my 2 daughters. I want to show them that no matter what happens in life, you can persevere. Our family motto is, ‘We overcome difficulties.’ It can be done.”
“And what would you tell others who’ve been thrown a few curveballs in life?”
Q thought for a moment. She sat on her hands as if to give herself some support or prop herself up. She stared into space for a moment, and then back at me.
“Swing away,” she said simply. “Swing away.”
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