This story is part of the "Journey to Commencement" series that highlights University of Mississippi students and their academic and personal journeys from college student to college graduate.
There are no limits to the sacrifices parents will make for their families. Just ask Aaron White.
The first-year student pharmacist from Madison makes a tough choice every Sunday evening as he drives the two-and-a-half hours from Madison to Oxford after spending the weekend with his wife, Lauren, and their 3-year old son, Walter.
Aaron spends Monday through Friday studying at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, often arriving at school at 8 a.m. and leaving after 8 p.m., finishing everything he needs to do so that when the weekend comes around again, he can focus on his family.
On May 11, when he receives his Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences degree, he'll be one step closer to his goal of becoming a pharmacist and living with his family again.
"It's definitely not easy," Aaron said. "I'm making the sacrifice for my wife and family, but at the same time, it doesn't feel like a burden. It's just something you have to do, so you do it."
University of Mississippi student Aaron White drives from Madison to Oxford each weekend to balance his pharmacy school workload and his family – his wife, Lauren, and their 3-year old son, Walter. Courtesy photo
Aaron's journey to becoming a pharmacist started after he received his bachelor's degree from Blue Mountain College in 2010. When his plans for medical school didn't work out, Aaron instead worked at the Walmart Pharmacy in Pearl and began earning his pharmacy technician license.
That job led to a new opportunity at the University of Mississippi Medical Center's infusion therapy clinics. Working with patients with chronic diseases at the clinics sparked his interest in specialty pharmacy and planted the seed for going back to school.
Now, one year into his four years of pharmacy education, Aaron remains committed to his decision, knowing that this temporary sacrifice will benefit his family in the long run.
"It's hard being away from them," Aaron said. "She's my wife of seven years and my best friend. He's my kid. It was hard, especially at first, because I would go home, and he'd be doing something new. I hated that I was missing things like that."
Aaron doesn't take his time with Walter for granted. He describes his son's developing imagination and communication skills with the words and perspective of a proud father.
"I never really liked when my parents would praise me in front of others, but now I understand where that comes from," Aaron said. "Parents take pride in their kids like, 'That's my kid, that's my boy.'"
Aaron White served as host of the School of Pharmacy's Superlative Awards Day. Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services
Lauren admits that the decision for Aaron to go to pharmacy school was tough, and the first year of pharmacy school was a big transition. However, with family, friends and a job in Madison, she knew that she and her son would be supported during Aaron's weeks at school.
"I know that Aaron has always had a passion to be in the medical field and help others," Lauren said. "Ever since I met him, he has always served others with a willing heart. This was his opportunity to achieve this goal."
Although the time away from his family can be trying, Aaron has found encouragement in the classmates who make up his Ole Miss pharmacy "family." He makes a point to attend extracurricular events and give back when he can, including serving as his class secretary-treasurer during the upcoming school year.
"My classmates are some of the best people you can hope to meet, and we have incredible camaraderie," Aaron said. "I try to get to know them and make connections as much as I can, because life is about people."
Lauren also appreciates the closeness and support of the School of Pharmacy, knowing that the students act as a second family to Aaron when he is away from home.
"I'm very thankful for the atmosphere of the School of Pharmacy and that Aaron has classmates who care about him," Lauren said. "Even though he has been away this year, we can see the bigger picture. We miss him so much and the days are long being alone, but the time apart makes us grateful for the time we have together."