When Soponna Chhom enrolled in the Carrington College Pharmacy Technology program in Portland, Oregon last year, the 22-year-old Portland resident was confident she could master the course material. But what she didn’t anticipate was the significant personal growth she would experience while navigating the nine-month program.
“Soponna came to our program with a lot of heart and a real desire to learn, but she was also very reserved and self-conscious about her accent,” recalls Katee Tracy, Program Director for Carrington’s Pharmacy Technology program in Portland. “She was concerned that people couldn’t understand her very well.”
It turns out that Chhom, who moved to the United States from Cambodia eight years ago, had little reason to worry.
“It was amazing to see how much Soponna has grown during the course of her program,” says Tracy. “She gradually became much more self-confident. She wasn’t afraid to ask questions in class. She joked and laughed with her classmates. Because English is her second language, there are some words that don’t easily translate. But Soponna always sticks with it until she understands. She’s a young woman who just doesn’t give up.”
Chhom’s tenacity also impressed her fellow students to such a degree that they elected her Class Lead Tech. In that role, Chhom was responsible for helping integrate new students into the program, as well as interacting with prospective students who toured the lab and classroom.
“At first I was nervous when I was elected Class Lead Tech,” Chhom recalls. “But I was also excited. I knew the experience would push me outside my comfort zone and help me develop new skills that would be helpful to me in the future.”
Chhom’s experience as Class Lead Tech positioned her well for her externship interviews when she participated in a Carrington Career Fair in May. Even though she was anxious when she walked into the event, she was also prepared. She met with employers from four different pharmacy settings—Retail, Long Term Care, Mail Order and In-Patient Hospital—and was eager to answer their questions. She was also ready to ask some of her own.
“I was very interested in learning as much as I could about each employer, how their companies worked, and what they were looking for,” says Chhom. “I think they could see that I was really interested in the field of pharmacy and learning as much as I could during my externship.”
Chhom’s strategy paid off.
“As soon as the Career Fair ended, one of the employers literally came running toward me and said ‘Can I have her? Can I?,”’ recalls Tracy. “The employer was like a kid begging for candy. She really wanted Soponna. As it turned out, so did two of the other employers. Within a few minutes, they were joking among themselves about which one ‘deserved’ Soponna more.”
Tracy says it was exciting to see what a positive impression Chhom had made on the employers.
“A few months earlier, Soponna was very shy and unsure of herself,” says Tracy. “But over the course of her program, she has really come into her own. Her whole world is changing. The process has been a huge boost to Soponna’s self-confidence. I think she now sees her future in very different terms than she did even six months ago. She begins her externship this month at a hospital and I know she’s going to do very well.”
Chhom, who currently works part-time as a cashier at a Portland Goodwill store, now has a clear vision for her future.
“My goal is to complete my master of science degree in pharmacy and work in a hospital,” says Chhom. “I’m looking forward to working in the healthcare industry and providing a service that helps people get well and feel better.”
Tracy has no doubt Chhom will succeed. “Watching students like Soponna realize their potential and excel is one of the most rewarding aspects of being an instructor and program director at Carrington,” says Tracy. “Soponna is one of those students I’ll always remember. Seeing her overcome her fears has been very inspiring. I know Soponna believes she can accomplish anything she commits to doing—and she should. It’s true.”
Are you interested in training to become a pharmacy technician? Check out information on Carrington College’s Pharmacy Technology program: