Katina Dansby is a self-described “people person” who loves her small hometown of McCormick. As Assistant to the Clerk in the McCormick County Courthouse, Dansby is doing what she loves best and that is helping people in the very community that she was raised.
But how she landed in the courthouse was quite a journey. Dansby was a participant in the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) program as a dislocated worker. Her story is so compelling that the State Workforce Investment Board is honoring her as its Outstanding WIA Alumnus of the Year for the State of South Carolina.
She will be recognized by the State Workforce Investment Board during the upcoming SC Workforce Partnership Symposium.
Dansby was laid off from a Greenwood plant in October 2008 after 13 years there. She enrolled in the WIA program in December 2008, and started school in January 2009.
“It was a shock. That’s all I knew, to go to work every day,” Dansby said. “But I had always said that if I got laid off or had an opportunity, I would go back to school.”
With WIA financial assistance, Dansby enrolled at Piedmont Technical College as a fresh start student, meaning she would take basic prerequisite courses before entering the Nursing program. She took a Biology course that summer, but being out of school for almost 20 years and raising a family, the challenge was daunting.
Katina (Bell) Dansby graduated from McCormick High School in 1991. She married Michael Dansby and they have two children, Michael Javon Dansby who is an 18-year-old high school senior and Isaiah who is now 10.
But four years ago while their mother was going back to college, Michael Javon and Isaiah were just entering middle school and grade school.
“I would be up sometimes at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning doing assignments and homework,” she said. “I was still maintaining a house and helping the children with homework. Sometimes I had to wait until it got quiet (to do school work). I was really stressed out. It was overwhelming. I was getting to the point where I was getting burned out. It was hard on me mentally, emotionally and physically.”
She was not ready to give up on nursing. However, a turn of events steered her into the Pharmacy Tech diploma program instead.
“I was ready to go into the (nursing) program. I was going to do the LPN first and then fast track to RN. I was program ready. But my name was not yet on the list,” she said. “With WIA, I needed to still be able to go to class. I didn’t want to lose that scholarship. So I asked, ‘what program do you have that I can go into?’ When she (the counselor) called me back, it was Pharmacy Tech. So I took it. I didn’t want to sit out. I was getting good grades. I didn’t want to get lazy.”
Dansby started the Pharmacy Tech program in the fall of 2010 and did well, even being elected to the Phi Theta Kappa academic honor society. Dansby participated in clinicals in different drug stores and quickly discovered how much she enjoyed the applied portion of what she had been learning. She graduated in August 2011.
“It was not easy,” she said. “But I maintained good grades. My instructor (Tonya Phillips) was awesome.”
While she was in school, Dansby started a part-time job as a pharmacy assistant at Strom’s Drug Store in McCormick in November 2010. She really began to flourish there as she started seeing success and the fruits of her labor.
“My heart was with independent pharmacies, small hometown pharmacies,” she said. “I had never thought that I would be working at Strom’s. I never imagined being able to work in McCormick, that close to home.”
While she was not yet certified, Dansby was allowed to count pills, enter computer information and other functions because she was working directly under a pharmacist.
“I worked a couple days a week while I was going to school. My hours would count toward my certification,” said Dansby, who also served in a clinical at Savitz Drug Store in Abbeville.
After graduating, Dansby became certified allowing her to do “everything” at the pharmacy, and she was able to get a raise.
But the full-time position with benefits never came.
“Being a small town pharmacy, I had been there a little over two years and I was not able to get a full-time position. I wanted 40 hours a week, a full-time paycheck. I do have two children, a husband, a full household. I had no benefits. I knew there was something more. But it was a challenge because I loved being in McCormick.”
Dansby thought she might have to find work outside of McCormick. But then she caught her big break.
“One day, I happened to be sitting in the back seat riding to look at wedding dresses – my sister is getting married – and I read the McCormick Messenger,” Dansby recalled. “I always look at the classifieds. And there was a position at the courthouse under the Clerk of Court. This was a Saturday. On my day off, I was going to apply for that. I got up Tuesday morning and put my “looking for a job” outfit on and came to the courthouse. She gave me an application and I went to Family Dollar, got me a clipboard, and sat out in the car and filled out the application.
“I said, ‘Ok, God. It’s on you. If it’s mine, You will let me know.’ Within the next week, I interviewed with Gwen (Clerk of Court Gwendolyn Childs) and I had the job that day. I always thought it would be neat to work at the courthouse. It’s such a good place to work.”
Dansby’s job involves family court duties, including the handling of child support payments, divorces, adoptions, and titles and deeds, and also attending the general sessions and criminal courts for which he records and files.
Dansby is thankful for the WIA program in giving her confidence in working with the public, which are two common threads between her positions at the pharmacy and at the courthouse.
“I’m a people person. I love people,” she said. “Working at a pharmacy taught me a lot about patience and customer service. There, I helped customers get their medicines filled and their insurance filed.
“Over here, I help make sure the mother gets her child support payment on time or I sometimes communicate with a father who has to pay child support. I do a lot of computer stuff here and a lot of customer service over the phone. You have to multi-task at the courthouse. Multi-tasking is something that I learned from the pharmacy.”
Another common thread between the pharmacy and courthouse is dealing with customers who are often facing difficult circumstances.
“Nobody wants to be sick or have to go to court,” she said. “People need someone to care. A simple smile or ‘that shirt looks nice on you’ will make them feel a little better about their situation.”