Dawson Undaunted

One Woman’s Journey

Twenty-six-year-old Natalie Dawson had her first job – throwing newspapers from her bicycle in a Lancaster neighborhood – when she was 12 years old. She’s been working ever since. Almost.

In 2009, Dawson enjoyed a newfound career as a medical assistant but, after two years on the job, was laid off due to organizational changes in her office.

“I was devastated,” explains the single mother. “I had two little kids at home and no job. I didn’t know what to do or where to go. I fell into a depression. It took me a while to realize things weren’t going to get any better if I didn’t do something, so I made a move.” Literally.

Dawson moved in with family members and started looking at her choices.

She knew more education would translate into a job, so she visited YTI Technical Institute in Mechanicsburg because of the school’s reputation for a hands-on learning approach and ability to cater to working adults.

“The counselors spent a lot of time talking with me and helping me figure out what was going to be the best career fit based on my situation, personality and schedule,” states Dawson.

She enrolled in the 12-month pharmacy tech program in March of 2011 and found work as a nurse’s assistant shortly thereafter, allowing her to provide the necessities for herself and her children.

“The life our parents give us is their choice,” says Dawson. “What we make of ourselves is up to us. If you want something good, go get it. Realize that you’re going to have to struggle, but it’s worth it. That’s the way I live my life.”

She had no money for the “extra” things, she says, like new clothes, eating out or socializing with friends. Everything she earned went toward gas and maintaining her worn-out car, allowing her to make the trek every day from home to school and back again.

“I worked from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., then drove 45 minutes to get home and was up by 5 a.m. the next day to get everyone out the door,” remembers Dawson. “My friends were telling me to just quit, that it wasn’t worth it. They didn’t understand the kind of life I want to give my kids.”

Dawson graduated from YTI in March of this year and now enjoys a career as a pharmacy tech for the landmark Williams Apothocary in downtown Lancaster.

“Natalie came highly recommended to our staff and has been a wonderful addition to our team,” remarks Mr. Williams, pharmacy owner for more than 42 years.

What does the future hold for Ms. Dawson?

She plans to continue with Williams Apothecary while earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis on long-term care management. Her dream is to help people – like herself – who have taken the “long road,” as she calls it.

Within the next 10 years, Dawson hopes to own a home, be completely finished with school – possibly having completed a master’s program – and be progressing through the ranks of the apothecary, assisting others on their journey.

“The life our parents give us is their choice,” says Dawson. “What we make of ourselves is up to us. If you want something good, go get it. Realize that you’re going to have to struggle, but it’s worth it. That’s the way I live my life.”