Q&A with Pharmacy Technology Student ShyLynn McCray

Shylynn MccrayPlease tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m originally from a place about 15 minutes west of Gallup called Manuelito. I have two daughters. The oldest one is TiMeidra and she is sixteen. My youngest one is ShyKira and she is thirteen. We are full Navajo and live in a rural area. I was traveling back and forth for two and a half hours every Tuesday and Thursday to Albuquerque for school. The first few weeks were quite a drive for me but then I got used to it. I would leave at five in the morning, get right to class, leave immediately after class, drive all the way back, and then pick up my daughters from school. This year became particularly tough when I lost my husband in April.

When did you decide to pursue a career in pharmacy tech?

My husband had health issues and he took medications that were new to him. So, I decided to start reading about them. I wanted to know more. He was prediabetic, had high blood pressure, and had a few other health problems, so they prescribed him quite a few medications the last three or four years of his life. I became very curious about them but going back to school hadn’t crossed my mind yet. At that time, I was home and my husband was out working for us. Before I met my husband, I was a single parent and I was the one working, being the only income for me and my girls. Then, when I got married, my husband encouraged me to stay home and spend more time with the girls. I told him that would be something new for me but I would give it a try. I didn’t end up going back to school until after my best friend Redd asked, ‘what are you going to do with the rest of your life?’ I hadn’t thought too much about that in the past, but it felt like the right time to think about it because both of my girls had become teenagers. I talked to him and then I talked to my husband when I got home. He encouraged me to look into something and make sure it was something I would enjoy. I wondered what that would be… and then it came to me—pharmacy technician! I’d always had an eye for that.

What motivated you to choose Carrington?

The first school I looked at was Carrington. I liked that there was an accelerated program. I wanted to get my degree as fast as I could and start working.

What was your favorite part of your program?

I loved the interaction with the instructors. I also loved the hands-on parts of the program and I never got bored in class. Everything we did in class was something I liked. I also picked up their style of teaching. Now when my parents ask me about medication, I can tell them and they are like, ‘Wow, you really know!’

Did you ever want to quit when you were in school?

During the first two weeks after my husband passed, I thought about leaving school and not going back. Redd, who is also my oldest one’s godfather, told me to go back when I was ready. He said the school would give me some time. I stayed home for the first two weeks because we were getting things ready for my husband’s service. In our Navajo tradition, we have to stay home for four days after we bury someone. So, I stayed home for those four days and did a lot of thinking. I decided that I was going to go back to school because I needed to set an example for my daughters. I didn’t want to let them down by not finishing; I knew they would be proud of me for going back. I also knew my husband would have wanted me to finish and move forward.

Do you feel like being in school is part of what helped you get through that very difficult time?

Yes, it is what helped me get through it. Every time I came home, I wanted to go back to school! But I had my girls to tend to at home. They went with me to school during the first two weeks that I returned. They would wait outside for me until the afternoon. It is a two-and-a-half-hour drive and everyone was worried about me going alone. But after two weeks, I decided that I was ok to go by myself.

Who helped you get through the difficult times?

I have to thank my oldest daughter’s godfather and my best friend, Redd Gashytewa. He is the one who talked me through all of this and he is the one who pushed me to start school and to finish it. There were also days I didn’t want to get up and go because of everything I was going through. But he would call me and encourage me to do it for my girls as something that they can look back at. They will know that their mom is strong and that she did it. Then they can use that to finish what they need to finish in their lives. He pushed me a lot and to this day he is like that. I also wouldn’t have been able to make it through the program without help from my daughters and the McCray family.

Are there any Carrington instructors or staff members who you would like to acknowledge?

Oh yes, definitely! I had Sierra Armstrong as my instructor for my first and second terms. She encouraged me a lot. She was also my instructor the month my husband passed. She was there for me and she talked to me a lot. My next instructor who came on was Jessica Reinhart because Sierra was being promoted. They both played a big role in helping me finish up and they were available and would listen when I needed someone to talk to. They also pushed me to finish school. When I left, we were all in tears. They became like sisters to me.

Have you started working?

Right now, I am focusing on my girls. With the pandemic, everything else has been kind of put on hold around Gallup. I also need to retake my PTCE. I’m going to do a boot camp that my instructor Jessica just started through Carrington. I know that’ll help me prepare to retake it. After I pass, I will start applying for jobs and see where that takes me.

Do you have any advice for people interested in going back to school?

Oh yes, definitely. With everything I have gone through, I know anything is possible. Losing my husband was a huge setback for me, but I still finished. We all leave tracks for other people and I chose to lead by example.

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