After Gordana Milosevic's parents moved from war-torn Yugoslavia to the Northwest suburbs in 1993, they began instilling in their then 3-year-old daughter the importance of hard work in achieving the American dream they believed in so solidly.
Their dream became hers, and the hard work she's always known was required has put her in the inaugural graduating class of Roosevelt University's College of Pharmacy in Schaumburg.
Milosevic will be among 61 graduates of the accelerated three-year program receiving their diplomas Thursday at the first commencement ceremony specific to Roosevelt's Schaumburg campus.
Nearly 70 percent of the graduates have already accepted positions, with most taking jobs at retail pharmacies.
But Milosevic has more work ahead to fulfill her ultimate professional goal. Next month she will begin a one-year residency at a hospital in West Allis, Wisconsin, to get the experience she needs to be a clinical pharmacist.
The residency will be another intensive experience -- even after the long days and year-round study of the accelerated pharmacy program.
"They say one year of residency is equivalent to three to five years of working," Milosevic said. "To be able to learn, you've got to put yourself outside of your comfort zone."
Growing up in first Hoffman Estates and then Streamwood, Milosevic graduated from Elgin High School.
She was just finishing her third year as an economics major at the University of Illinois at Chicago when the opportunity arose through Roosevelt's program to reach her ultimate pharmacy goal faster.
Her days became longer, the work more challenging and her classmates began to be of different generations -- with many going back to school to change their careers.
But that change was exactly what Milosevic was looking for -- as well as the chance to be a part of Roosevelt's mission of social justice.
Her experiences in the College of Pharmacy include a week at a clinic in Haiti and six weeks at a Cherokee reservation in North Carolina.
Her parents' influence, as well as the state of the economy, contributed to Milosevic's sense that college was not a time to take a break from planning her future.
"That's why people are moving more toward health care, because we're always going to need health care," she said, adding that she believes the Affordable Care Act has reinforced health care's mission to make a positive difference for people.
The goals, responsibilities and preparation for the role of pharmacist changed about 15 years ago when it was realized how much more influence they could have on people's health, Milosevic said.
Mistaken use of medication and the effects of drug interaction put many people in the hospital. With members of the nation's aging population taking 10 medications or more, managing those is a job in itself, she said.
And now that she stands at the threshold of her chosen profession, Milosevic is filled with gratitude to her parents for their bravery in leaving their homeland and the example they set for her ever since.
"I know my family wouldn't have left (Yugoslavia) if the situation wasn't what it was," Milosevic said. "My parents work nonstop.
"(My dad is) the prime example of hard work and getting to where you need to be. I'm just amazed at what he was able to do."