Students SHINE, land jobs through local pharmacy program

Joshua Jackson of Waukegan graduated from the SHINE Pharmacy Program last year and now works at a Walgreens as a pharmacy technician. | Provided
Joshua Jackson of Waukegan graduated from the SHINE Pharmacy Program last year and now works at a Walgreens as a pharmacy technician. | Provided

Joshua Jackson wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life after he graduated from Waukegan High School in 2009.

He had been out of school for two years when he received an informational pamphlet in the mail at his parents’ home.

It described the SHINE Pharmacy Program, which was started in 2010 by Germain Castellanos, the founder of the SHINE Educational Leadership Program.

With partners such as the College of Lake County providing pharmaceutical training for students and Walgreen Co. employing students as interns at its local pharmacies, the program prepares students for a high-paying job in the growing field.

Jackson was one of about 300 applicants picked to participate in the fall of 2012 based on financial need and his grades when he was in high school.

Today, Jackson is a certified pharmacy technician who works at the Walgreens pharmacy on Sunset and Lewis avenues in Waukegan. The SHINE Pharmacy Program also has placed students at Walgreens pharmacies in Libertyville, Beach Park, Zion and Lake Villa.

“SHINE changed my life,” Jackson said.

The program’s classes proved the most fun he’s had while learning, Jackson said, and the experience also helped him grow as a person.

Castellanos said there’s high demand for pharmacy technicians and the SHINE Pharmacy Program is a great way to teach and train students who want to get into the field.

Next month, Castellanos is scheduled to host a seminar about the program in front of the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals in Chicago.

“It’s a national model to build a program around the needs of a thriving field,” he said.

Applications for this year’s program were made available on Monday, Aug. 11, and Castellanos expects to receive about 300 calls, the same number he has received each year.

Classes begin next month and only 20 spots are available.

“It’s an intense program,” Castellanos said.

Classes meet three times per week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the internship hours at a local pharmacy are worked around that schedule. The six-month program is open to students between the ages of 18 to 21.

“The students interview for their internships with the managers,” Castellanos said. “They get the real-world experience of a workplace from the start.”

Once certified as pharmacy technicians, Castellanos said the students are able to seek employment in the retail side of the field, like in a Walgreens, CVS or other big box store pharmacy.

“Those jobs are more accessible but after a year of retail experience, they can go into private corporations and hospitals and make the big bucks,” Castellanos said.

During his internship, Jackson learned the pharmaceutical field can provide work in many areas, not just as a pharmacy technician.

“It was interesting to find out about drug manufacturing jobs and even law with malpractice suits,” said Jackson, adding that he is thinking about studying constitutional law.

“SHINE helped reinvigorate my initiative to learn,” Jackson said.

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