June 3, 2009 - As Shana Ricker looks back at her life, she would have never imagined the path she would take to get her where she is today. While some elements of her past are far from a Cinderella story, Ricker is thankful for the hard lessons that have shaped her life goals.
After moving all over California, Ricker finally settled in Bakersfield at age 18. She graduated from high school and tried beauty college, but quickly figured out it was not for her. Married at age 20 and divorced before turning 24, her life began to spiral out of control - unbeknownst to her family.
"I started using drugs within two years of my divorce," explained Ricker, now 34 and the mother of two pre-teen children. "Once I started using, I lost custody of both my kids within six months. I just didn't care. I was looking for something to make me feel better and drugs did that for me - temporarily."
Adrift in a world of drugs, Ricker was not working and needed to make money to feed her habit. "I sold drugs for about three years until I got caught," Ricker said. "I was arrested and spent four months in Lerdo Jail. It was a humiliating experience. I vowed to not return and entered a rehab facility in Arvin after my release. Once I completed the program, I was asked to stay and help others going through the program. I lived on the property and made money legally - a big deal to me. I also think I was hiding from temptation during the year I worked there. It was something I needed to do."
During her time in rehab, Ricker endured another blow and was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She underwent surgery and learned she would never have more kids. That realization helped Ricker put life in perspective. A year passed and Ricker knew it was time to move ahead. She asked her parents if she could move back home to Bakersfield. They agreed and Ricker worked hard to rebuild the trust of her parents and her children. Her parents had learned of her drug use only upon her arrest so there was much for Ricker to overcome.
"They had no idea I was using," Ricker admitted. "But they allowed me back home and I worked at a local church volunteering in a recovery group. Then I realized I wanted something more and asked if they would help me go to school." Her parents agreed. At age 30, she enrolled at Bakersfield College and eventually regained custody of her children. She had started to pave her own road of opportunity.
"I worked on my general education requirements until I found a field where my drug use and arrest would not be an issue," said Ricker. "I found sociology to be the field with the greatest latitude. Once I transferred to CSUB, I took Dr. Dugan's sociology class and realized she was talking about my life. It helped me understand why I took the route I did. I really wanted to understand."
Just as Ricker's life started to take off, she had yet another setback. "I got really sick and was diagnosed with lupus, scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia," Ricker said. "Even today I have to take chemotherapy medication every week and there are days when the pain is so debilitating that I cannot even go to school. But, my professors have been incredibly understanding of my situation. Having that relationship with the faculty is one of the greatest things about CSUB. It has helped me get through some difficult times."
Despite the adversity she has faced, Ricker has persevered. Recently she had new firsts in her life: her first car, first credit card, and on Saturday, June 13 Ricker will receive her bachelor's degree in sociology. As she crosses the stage, her children and family will be proudly watching her achieve another major milestone in her life.
"It has been a long road but my parents and children are extremely proud of what I have accomplished," Ricker said. "With my parents' help I have applied to grad school and will continue my education. I want to become a professor and help someone, just like my professors at CSUB have helped me."
For more information:Michele Newell
Media ContactColleen Dillaway, Director of Public Affairs & Communications