When Kayla Palmer was in third grade, she was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD), a condition that not only made school difficult, but which also made her self-conscious about the way she learned and went through life.
While others always appeared to have things figured out – from the speed at which they learned and completed assignments to their grasp on their future aspirations – Kayla often struggled with grades and behavioral issues. And, though she successfully graduated from high school in 2018, her first attempt at college followed that all-to-familiar path.
“I went to a state college in Jacksonville for business, and being my first year, I didn’t know what to expect,” Kayla said. “I didn’t take certain things seriously, and I did very badly. So, after that first year, I just stopped going.”
Instead, she moved to Orlando and immediately started working two summer jobs to cover her bills. She knew education and career training was going to be essential for future success, but she had simply lost confidence in herself.
Then, she got a call from Florida Career College (FCC).
“It was kind of like a sign,” Kayla said. “I thought I should be in school, but I had no idea what to go for. But, I visited the school and they showed me the programs, broke everything down for me and helped me decide what I wanted to do.”
Today, Kayla is a successful graduate from the program and is working as a compounding pharmacy technician at the same Orlando-area pharmacy at which she completed her externship.
“Going from the kid who went home with F’s and D’s on her report card to now finishing school and becoming a pharmacy technician … it feels amazing,” she said.
Making Adjustments in Education
When Kayla first started classes at FCC Orlando, the way COVID-19 would affect our country was still a big unknown. So, her first three weeks of coursework took place in a more traditional classroom environment. And, she quickly grew to respect and appreciate her instructor, Darvi Redding.
“I absolutely adore her,” Kayla said. “From the moment I started in school, she was very welcoming. She has this very bright energy, and she one of those teachers who really cares about her students – not just the grades, but their futures, as well.”
But, as classes started to transition into online learning due to the coronavirus pandemic, Kayla said she started to feel that all-too-familiar struggle. The hands-on nature of in-person classes kept her focused and confident, so changing toward a more virtual environment caused her some anxiety.
Kayla felt like she was suddenly on her own island, and she feared she would lose the support she needed to succeed. One phone call with Darvi, however, and she realized she still had all the support she needed to succeed.
“We had a great call,” Kayla said. “Ms. Redding gave me ways to practice and remember the different medications, like using flashcards and making up my own tests and quizlets.”
“For six months, Kayla stayed the course and did not waiver while transitioning from in-class learning to online learning,” Darvi said. “Though during this time there were health challenges for members of her family, she stayed balance taking care of family and maintaining school work.”
Then, one day in October, Kayla said she came to class one day and was told she had completed her coursework and was ready to start her externship.
“I broke down in tears,” she said. “I was very excited because it was a long process. Even though it was only about seven or eight months, a lot happened, especially with COVID and not having a job during this time. So, when [Darvi] told me I was finished, I broke down in tears.”
Finding Success on Her Terms
Kayla said things started moving quickly for her after she learned her pharmacy technician coursework was complete. She immediately visited the career placement office to select her externship, which she started on the following day.
Due to family obligations, however, Kayla’s externship started slowly – just two hours a day, a pace that at one time would have concerned her and made her feel self-conscious. But, not anymore.
“I tell myself that everybody does things at their own pace,” Kayla said. “It’s like life. We go about things are our own pace. We sometimes see other people in different places in life, and we judge ourselves based on that. But, your life is your life, and it’s not always going to go just the way you want it to.”
Kayla chalked that attitude up to the confidence she gained while at FCC. The pharmacists at her externship were incredibly supportive of her schedule, as well. And, despite these limited hours, Kayla was able to make a strong enough impression that she was offered a compounding pharmacy technician job following the externship’s completion.
“This program and FCC really showed me that if you take your time and do stuff the right way, good things will come to you,” she said. “I’m really, really happy I got that phone call that day from FCC. When I think about how I was then to now, it’s refreshing to know that I’m here, I worked my butt off and I put my time in.”