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Against the odds

Beersheba Kirksey shares how her lifelong dream is becoming a reality

Ever since high school, biochemistry graduate Beersheba Kirksey has had a knack for the sciences. With multiple obstacles, and an outstanding sense of determination and hard work Kirksey is now on her way to pharmacy school after graduating from HSU this year. As a woman of color she hopes to go against the odds and follow her dreams by staying true to herself.

Kirksey chose to follow the pharmaceutical route when she was picking up her older sister’s medication. As she bought the medication she noticed a young black female technician at the pharmacy. This was a bit unusual for Kirksey. She had never seen a woman of color working at a pharmacy, especially a black woman.

“She was really pretty and young, she had a white coat,” Kirksey said. “And I was like, ‘How did you get this job?’ It was different. I’ve never seen any women of color work in the pharmacy before.”

Kirksey decided to approach the pharmacist to ask her how she got her job, and how she herself could get in the same position. The young pharmacist gave Kirksey helpful advice on how to plan out her future. However, Kirksey was warned about the hard work and challenges that would soon face her.

“She was like, ‘Well when you go to school you want to major in either biology or chemistry and it’s going to be hard. It’s going to be a lot of work, once you do that you apply to pharmacy school, get experience you know the whole shabang,’” Kirksey said.

“[The] biology department is a little more diverse but chemistry… It’s not diverse.”

Beersheba Kirksey

Kirksey has been determined to achieve her goal since 2010, after receiving her acceptance to HSU. She majored in chemistry with a focus in biochemistry during her freshman year.

“It’s been a long, hard, tough journey,” Kirksey said.

Although she was gaining experience with her job and labs, Kirksey noticed the lack of diversity in the chemistry department and all around Humboldt county.

“It was a culture shock,” Kirksey said. “Not having anybody to reach out to, it just really felt like you’re out of place, like you don’t belong. Especially in the chemistry department, it’s really not diverse. Biology department is a little more diverse but chemistry, it’s not diverse.”

Kirksey is used to the SoCal environment. Moving to Humboldt was a drastic change, and she knew that the process was not going to be easy. Against all odds Kirksey managed to stay strong and continued to be true to herself. She found support in herself, and Kirksey said that it benefited her in becoming stronger.

IMG_5624.JPG Kirksey glowing outside in the sun. Feb. 21. | Photo by Skylar Gaven

“I’m from SoCal. Just because I’m in the sciences, I still like to dress, I still like do the things that I grew up on,” Kirksey said. “I like to wear lipsticks, change my hair and things like that. It sucks sometimes because it makes you stand out and it brings pressure but at the same time that’s me, if I were to go to school in SoCal it wouldn’t be a problem so why should I change up here?”

Even though the department is not as diverse as one would hope, HSU still provided Kirksey with a variety of hands-on experience in the labs on campus.

“One thing that I do appreciate about Humboldt is that it’s a lot of hands on experience that you don’t find on a lot of campuses especially CSUs,” Kirksey said. “We did a lot of hands on things in the lab that I feel really strengthened me. The amount of work and that we do in the labs really prepares, so I give them that.”

Kimberly White, a biochemistry professor who has been teaching for two years at HSU, has witnessed Kirksey’s strong determination to succeed. Because biochemistry is not the easiest subject for most, White takes into consideration that students have different education methods and tries to incorporate different delivery methods. She does this through detailed lectures that are easy to follow and fun extra credit projects that are the students favorite.

IMG_2092.JPG Beersheba Kirksey prepares to dilute a 50x solution TAE buffer to a 1x solution for an electrophoresis agarose gel. | Photo by Dajonea Robinson

White said the Kirksey’s extra credit assignment was “mind blowing”. Kirksey went to White’s office hours more than any student of hers, she had “meticulous” notes and she was prepared for every lab.

White said that Kirksey’s motivation and attitude were always something that stood out and despite all the many things that were going on in Kirksey’s life she was always cheerful and ready to learn. White wrote Kirksey a letter of recommendation because she believes she can accomplish her goal.

“She is ready to go, I know that she is,” White said. “Not everybody has had an equal amount of opportunities, she has worked hard. Her success makes it that more sweet.”

Kirksey has already gotten her degree in biochemistry and is now working on the requirements needed for pharmacy school. She has applied to multiple schools and is looking forward for what the future has in store.

“I’m looking at Washington, Oregon State, and Midwestern in Arizona. I also had in interest in Roseman (University of Health Sciences) and I also applied to Howard, so we’ll see,” Kirksey said.

As she continues with her path into pharmacy school, Kirksey is working to use alternative medicines to give to others.

“I really see a problem when it comes to the pharmaceutical business in general,” Kirksey said. “I think it’s ridiculous. I feel like there are alternative ways to heal and treat people, not just based on harsh chemicals.”

IMG_2095.JPG Beersheba Kirksey dilutes a 50x solution TAE buffer to a 1x solution for an electrophoresis agarose gel. | Photo by Dajonea Robinson

Kirksey has many plans set up for herself. Her ultimate goal is to provide healthy, natural-based medicines that can help benefit a person’s health, instead of giving them a prescription that will make them worse.

“My ultimate goal is to become a pharmacist, get into business, learn everything there is about the body and how it reacts to medication,” Kirksey said. “I eventually want to open my own pharmacy and practice alternative medicine, just to give patients that option to lean off of strong chemicals.”

Kirksey has an amazing outlook on life and is a hard worker determined to pursue her goals. She now has to wait for an acceptance letter which is sure to be soon. Until then she will walk the HSU campus with radiant confidence and strength that she has built for herself for so long. She believes that every student of color should embrace themselves and not let anything get in the way of following their dreams.

“I stay true to myself and that’s my advice to anyone here of color, whatever major you’re in just stay true to yourself,” Kirksey said.”Don’t feel like you have to change or dumb down who you are, your culture, or where you’re from.”

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