Lekeshia Bush is not a UMA student or graduate, but as a pharmacist with Walgreens, one of UMA’s largest partners, she has worked with several graduates of UMA’s Pharmacy Technician program. Lekeshia knows what it is like to face challenges in life and in work, but with education, motivation and mentors, she was able to create a bright future for herself as a healthcare professional. Lekeshia hopes that by sharing her story, she can open the eyes of others to the wide range of career opportunities available in healthcare and inspire them to find a career path they love.
Growing up, I knew my home was filled with love. I can remember joyful times with my siblings. I can remember feeling safe in the company of my grandparents. However, there are some realizations that come with time and distance. As I got older, I realized my childhood was filled with love — but it was also filled with the trials of poverty and a parent overcoming addiction. While my story could have ended differently, I am proud to share my journey to success, and the power of being shown opportunity.
Looking back, it’s incredible to see how great an impact just one person can have on others. Through their individual contributions in my life, my family, my friends and my teachers all provided inspiration and drive — and encouraged me, a feisty, optimistic, young black woman from St. Petersburg, Florida, to reach higher and dream bigger than I would have allowed myself to do on my own.
Middle school is an awkward time for anyone but a growing realization that my family life didn’t look like some of my peers made it even more challenging. My focus began shifting from obstacles to opportunity thanks to an inspiring and observant teacher who believed in me. She saw my potential, and because of her encouragement, I was increasingly able to see the possibilities that were opening for me, too. Around the same time, I began living with my grandfather, who pushed me to be better, to do more, and to reach higher. He constantly reminded me of the opportunities that were around me, and my duty to be the best version of myself.
While these champions made me believe in myself, it wasn’t until I could see myself in someone else that the pieces really began to fall together.
As a high schooler, I craved freedom and looked for ways that I could create stability and independence in my own world. I began to see the path that would become my career when I met a friend’s mom who was a retail pharmacist. I admired her ability to connect with and care for the community, to create positive impact in the health of others - and I wanted the same for myself.
By showing me what was possible as a black woman — someone who looked like me and was from my own neighborhood — my friend’s mother created the first ring in a chain of empowerment and motivation I am dedicated not to break.
And so, I began my journey to become a pharmacist. There was no telling me I couldn’t once I saw it could happen. I got my very first pharmacy job at a Walgreens in St. Petersburg, Fla., and now I’m back as part of the Walgreens pharmacy family, more than two decades later.
I often revisit the quote, 'You can't be what you can't see,' by Marian Wright Edelman. My own experiences have shown me just how important and true those words are. That is why I am committed to speaking up, reaching out, and mentoring individuals who are looking to advance their careers and become pharmacists. I work hard to model high-performance behaviors and constantly encourage my mentees to give back, continuing to add another ring to the chain of support we are creating together.
None of this is to say I didn’t have struggles, or doubts, or hardship. Pursuing a STEM-based career when I didn’t always feel like I belonged was challenging and I had to work at building up a support system of like-minded and driven peers to make it to the finish line. We all need support in some way, but it takes being vulnerable (which in my dictionary is just another way to say ‘courageous’) to ask for that support.
Perhaps your strengths lie in your ability to push through challenges or to be the first in your family to pursue a healthcare career. Maybe you feel best when helping others develop their faith and spiritual gifts. Or it might be that you can help others imagine the future that can be, and our imaginations are some of the most important tools for success.
No matter your path, it matters that you keep giving back. It matters that you know yourself, what you want, and put in the work to get it. It matters that you create the opportunity to show someone the possibilities that are open for them.
Each time you push yourself beyond your fears and doubts, you create a ring on the chain of inspiration and support you’ve been building upon your own life.
Don’t stop with you. Encourage yourself and others to keep the chain going to overcome adversity.