CLEMSON --- Initially, Claire Reid Pearson planned to enroll at Tri-County Technical College for just one year, taking core general education courses before transferring to a nearby university.

She quickly changed her plans, when in 2007, during a conversation with her advisor, former Science Department Head Galen DeHay, she discovered the two-year Pre-Pharmacy curriculum, which gives students the courses they need to apply to any pharmacy school in S.C.  "I was surprised to find that I could take all of my Pharmacy prerequisite classes at Tri-County," said Pearson. 

            Tri-County's program provides students the same opportunities to enter a school of pharmacy that a four-year college or university would - at a fraction of the cost. 

Pearson's goal was to study to be a pharmacist like her father. "Tri-County saves time and money," she said.  But the high school honor graduate and HOPE Scholar didn't expect the classes to be so rigorous and to require daily preparation out of class.

 "All of the science classes were really hard," she said.  Take Organic Chemistry, for example.  She had exempted Chemistry 101 as an AP student coming from T. L. Hanna High School.  She took Chemistry 102 and Organic Chemistry from Science instructor Karen Culp-Linscott.  "She is tough, but she really prepared me for Presbyterian College (PC)," where Pearson, now a pharmacy manager at Clemson's Walmart Neighborhood Market, earned a Pharm D. degree in 2014. 

"I had to retake Organic Chemistry because I didn't pass the course.  It was devastating because it was the first time I had ever failed a class.  But it was my fault.  I really hadn't mastered the art of studying.  I changed my study habits and got focused. Because of that experience, I changed the way I study and ultimately it prepared me for pharmacy school," she said.

"It was a turning point for me.  I wouldn't have been ready for Presbyterian College if Mrs. Linscott hadn't forced me to be a better student, and I am forever grateful."  The second time around she earned a high B.

Another factor in her academic success was enrolling in the Learning Excellence Initiative (LEI), now called Learning through Community and Connections (LC2), a program for first-time college students that focuses on improving learning and the transition to college.

"I was a different student leaving Tri-County than I was coming in," said Pearson, who credits Linscott, DeHay and Jennifer Hulehan, her LEI English teacher. "The transition is so hard your freshman year.  Mrs. Hulehan was great first-year teacher.  Really, she is one of those people who is more than a teacher  -- she is a mentor and a counselor," said Pearson, who received the outstanding English student award in 2008.  "Mrs. Hulehan made me want to succeed."

"I taught Claire in not one but three of my classes during her freshman year at Tri-County, and we kept in touch as she continued her educational journey," said Hulehan.  "It's been a pleasure watching Claire grow as a student and a person over the last eight years.  Like most first-time, postsecondary students, she struggled with the transition to college.  However, she fully embraced the lessons and experiences provided by the LEI and persisted despite the obstacles she encountered.  I couldn't be more proud of her accomplishments; students like Claire are why teachers like me keep teaching."

 "Tri-County set me up for success.  I don't think I would have been successful if I had gone any other route," said Pearson.

She secured her first job six months before graduating. Walmart hired her as a pharmacy intern and she became a graduate intern after she passed the NAPLEX licensure examination. She started as a staff pharmacist at Walmart in Greenville, and after one month on the job, a market manager presented her with the opportunity to move to the new Clemson store as pharmacy manager.

"I run across lots of people I graduated with who complain and say they aren't happy in their career.  I can honestly say I love my job," said Pearson.