(Homeschooler) Continuing the Family Business
by Peter Kowalke
Less than two years into college, Cameran Malloy knows the name of her future employer and the job she will be expected to perform. The employer goes by “Mom” and Cameran’s career after college will be that of pharmacist for Richford Rexall Drugs, her family’s tiny pharmacy in a small town in northern Vermont. Joining the 22-year-old homeschooler will be her husband of four years, Jeremy, who plans to lighten Cameran’s workload by sharing the pharmaceutical duties at Richford Rexall. Together, they will continue the family business that has helped shape Cameran since childhood.
Richford Rexall Drugs is the baby of Barbara Nye, who purchased the business in 1991 after working at the store for seven years as its primary pharmacist. While Cameran and brother stayed home with their father, who built the family house and works as a software programmer, Barbara ran the business. Cameran recalls that “as long as I can remember, my mother has always worked a lot.” As pharmacist and owner of Richford Rexall, Barbara would stay at the business late into the evening six days a week. Last minute drug requests from loyal customers would further consume her mom, Cameran remembers; on Sunday it was not uncommon for Barbara to stop by the pharmacy to fill a prescription or two.
As a teenager, Cameran worked at the pharmacy one day a week. She stocked shelves, answered phones and swept the floor. Under her mother’s supervision, duties gradually increased to include work as a pharmaceutical technician. “Barb was really patient with her” recalls Sally Desautels, a clerk at Richford Rexall for the past 16 years. “She learned a lot.” The young, free-spirited homeschooler brought life and smiles to the place. “We cater to the nursing homes in the area, and she was very good with the older people. She was very good at what she did.”
Despite the enjoyment from work at her mother’s pharmacy, and familiarity with its regular patrons, Cameran had no intention of continuing the family business. “That was the last thing I was going to do, growing up,” says Cameran. “I did not want to be a pharmacist.” To Cameran, the work was endless and the store too restrictive. Spending much of her day at home, in the woods, Cameran envisioned work outdoors, or with her hands. Flexibility and organic living were priorities—the lifestyle she lived as a homeschooler. However, employment options in rural Vermont were limited.
Undecided where her future would lead, Cameran followed Jeremy Malloy. Cameran married Jeremy and they moved to Oklahoma. Jeremy had enlisted in the Air Force, which catapulted the newlyweds 1500 miles from home. To make ends meet, she took a job as a cook, then as a bartender. While Jeremy served his country, Cameran served drinks.
The couple already had lived on their own for two years, but Oklahoma was a challenge. Barbara Nye, Cameran’s mom, recalls the early struggle. “I’m sure it was quite a transition for her,” she says. Along with greater financial burden, “they had a really hard time making friends and feeling at ease with a lot of the people.” For Cameran, Oklahoma was supposed to be a time to experiment, to have fun, and to choose a career. Instead, life felt harsh and unrelenting. “I think with homeschooling they tend to grow up a little faster,” remarks Barbara. Cameran was ready to leave, and “these were things that were a part of life.”
Then two years ago, a story in a pharmaceutical magazine radically altered the course of the young couple from Vermont. Barbara had sent her daughter an article about a successful Oklahoma pharmacist who combined herbal remedies with traditional medication. Cameran’s interest was piqued. The article combined the work of her mother with Cameran’s own love of herbalism. Inspired by the article and tired of life in Oklahoma, she enrolled at Western Oklahoma State College and convinced her husband that after the Service they should return to Vermont to assume the family business. “I never once thought,” says Jeremy Malloy, “that I would try to become a pharmacist.” Joining the business of Richford Rexall Drugs would bring financial stability, more free time, a return to their community in Vermont and the opportunity for Cameran to realize her dream of working with herbs. “We would be foolish not to take advantage of the situation,” he admits.
In the Nye household, herbal remedies were favored over commercial medication. “Barb was always interested in herbs,” says Ken Nye, Cameran’s father. “We also raised our food in the garden.” Although herbal remedies were not sold at the pharmacy, the importance of organic food and healing techniques were imparted to Cameran at a young age; as a teen, Cameran considered growing and selling herbs for a living. “Actually,” confesses Ken, “I didn’t realize how interested she was in herbs until a few years ago—when she started taking courses.”
Cameran views pharmacy as a way to make a living while promoting herbal health. “My dream is to combine the two,” she says. Herbal remedies will be an alternative, a support to commonly used drugs. Traditional medications will finance the less lucrative herbal remedies, she says. That’s her plan for combining the hard reality of earning a living with one of her homeschooling interests. Further, to make time for other interests, Cameran and Jeremy have decided to split the responsibilities at Richford Rexall. “We made a pact,” says Cameran. “We’re both doing this together. If it wasn’t for him, I probably wouldn’t do it.” Cameran and Jeremy will share the duties of drug dispenser; each will work three days a week at the pharmacy, giving the couple what they hope will be ample time for hobbies and recreation.
Before joining the family business, several years of schooling are in the couple’s immediate future. Pharmacy programs typically take five years to complete, and are required of all who work as pharmacists. For the past two years, since the decision to join the family business, Cameran has studied herbal remedies from a correspondence school. Both Cameran and Jeremy also have begun college, although currently they are back in Vermont—in an old, rustic house on the Nye family property—while they wait for acceptance letters from the University of Montana. If admitted, the couple will need from three to four more years of coursework to complete the program.
Graduation may be tricky, due to Jeremy’s time in the Air Force. Cameran has been in college longer than her husband, which means she will graduate while he still is a senior. Cameran could start work in Vermont while he completes his studies, or try to find employment as a temporary pharmacist in Montana. While Jeremy believes she should return to Vermont after graduation, Cameran bristles at the thought of their separation. Barbara Nye, who estimates a shortage of roughly 4000 pharmacists in the United States, encourages Cameran to stay with her man. “She might have to travel a little bit, but I think she could easily find a job in Montana.”
Cameran’s plan to continue the family pharmacy benefits both parent and child. To Cameran and Jeremy, Richford Rexall Drugs is a solution to the struggle between following one’s interests and earning enough money to live in comfort. For Cameran’s mother, the continuation of the family business is the opportunity to slow down, and to realize an old but enduring dream. “She never really came out and said it to me,” confides Cameran, “but I always knew she wanted me to carry on the pharmacy. As soon as I told her I was into it, she was so happy.”
The need for independence and self-determination is a natural part of the maturity process. To leave home is not to forget childhood, however, or the values and interests learned therein. Having lived in Oklahoma and tested her interests against her options, Cameran Malloy discovered a way to make both a living and a life. Her path has led back to the family pharmacy she knew as a child.
About the author: Lifelong unschooler Peter Kowalke, 25, is Communications Director at Clonlara School, a homeschooling program based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Peter writes often about home education, and he’s producer of Grown Without Schooling, a documentary about grown homeschoolers and the lasting influence of home education. For more stories about grown homeschoolers, visit Peter’s web site:
This article originally appeared in the May-June, 2001 issue of Home Education Magazine: http://www.home-ed-magazine.com/
Editor’s Note: Peter Kowalke will be presenting workshops at the New England Homeschool & Family Learning Conference. (see page 13)