Lori Myers, a fun-loving talent behind the counter at Gill's Deli, has fed many great sandwiches, jokes and stories to Gasparilla Island residents and visitors over the past six years.
Yet her dreams extend far beyond the deli counter and, with tuition help from the Boca Grande Woman's Club, she's been working to make them come true. Here's how the 43-year-old Myers has begun to change her life.
QUESTION: How did you hook up with Gill's Deli?
ANSWER: Owner Grant Quirk had an ad in the paper and I knew I could ride to work with my mother-in-law.
Q: What's been your favorite part of job?
A: The people, the customers. I love the people ion this island. They are so nice. They are really good to me. They treat me like family out here. That's what I'll miss the most.
Lori Myers at a glance
Birthdate: Feb. 25, 1969
Occupation: Gill's Deli while studying for health information management
Hometown: Danville, Ind.
Residence: Port Charlotte
Family: married 14 years with six children
Education: Studying for associate's degree in science at Southwest Florida College
Discovered Boca Grande: Mom. My mother-in-law, Linda Webb, was postmaster here. She just retired in September. She brought us out here.
Woman's Club scholarship deadline set Feb. 15
The Boca Grande Woman's Club Scholarship committee will begin to review applications in February, said Ginny Bryant, scholarship chairwoman.
Applicants must be island residents or have a parent who has been working on Boca Grande for at least two years. In addition, qualified adults pursuing a college degree are encouraged to apply.
Students from Lemon Bay High School should complete a scholarship packet from Mary Jo Holleran, LBHS senior guidance counselor, which includes recommendations, high-school grades and rank, extracurricular activities and a goal statement.
For seniors not from LBHS, the Boca Grande Woman's Club has its own application, which can be obtained by writing to the BGWC, attention scholarship chairwoman, P.O. Box 54, Boca Grande FL 33921.
The deadline for receiving all applications is Feb. 15, 2013.
Q: What's been your least favorite part of job?
A: The drive and the toll. I don't like how much gas it takes to come to Boca every week. I spend probably $60 to $80 a week in my truck.
Q: What's your most common sandwich request?
A: An Italian is the most popular.
Q: What's the oddest sandwich request?
A: Mmm, that was just recently. He had barbecue with ham and lettuce, tomato and mustard. The people from the East Coast always want cole slaw on their sandwiches.
Q: Your own personal favorite sandwich?
A: Mine is the Italian with provolone with lettuce, tomato, banana peppers, jalapenos and black olives.
Q: You love the job but it's not enough. Why decide to go to school?
A: There are a lot of reasons for that. I've always wanted to go to college but got married young. Then my goals changed. So now all my kids are grown. Another reason is I need a career with retirement and benefits so I can have some security. So I've got to do it now so by the time I get to retirement age I can have a retirement. Some people take a little break between high school and college. I took 20 to 25 years.
Q: How much studying do you do in addition to work?
A: Including class, about 30 hours.
Q: Was it hard to get back into studying habits?
A: In the beginning it was very hard. Some of it is very dry. I was very intimidated because I am so much older. But I got through the hardest part and now I like it.
Q: So how did you get through it?
A: Some of us girls put together a study group. Four or five of us grouped together - all of us older except for one in her 20s. We just put a study group together once a week and checked each other to make sure we were on track and getting it because it was very hard in the beginning.
Q: Do they make it harder in the beginning to weed people out?
A: Definitely they try to weed people out in the beginning and it works. There are not nearly as many people graduating as started out in the class.
Q: How did your study group do?
A: My study group all made it. In the beginning we were all on the dean's list. It slipped away from most all of us in the transition from instructors and school changes. We're all still A and B students. The study group held a lot of us (together). These courses are very hard.
Q: What were the most difficult classes?
A: The hardest part was clinical classifications I and II and HCPCS classes (coding for ambulatory services and products). They were very hard.
Q: What were your favorite classes?
A: My favorite classes were health care law and ethics and management classes. I just had a good time with it, was really into it and liked it. All the legalities were intriguing to me. That makes me think I might possibly want to get into health care compliance.
Q: How has the Woman's Club helped you?
A: Oh, I love them. They told me in my interview that I was the first adult ever to apply. I just gave it a shot in the dark. Hey, I'm not what your ad says but they welcomed me. When I called Ginny Bryant she was so excited about it. Less than a month later they had granted me a scholarship.
Q: Will you continue to work with a Woman's Club scholarship as long as you're at Gill's Deli?
A: Yes. To continue you have to send transcripts every semester. Mine are 11 weeks.
Q: What did you learn about the scholarship process?
A: I'd never tried to get a scholarship before. But in retrospect I wish I'd have applied for every scholarship I could. There are so many out there. The Woman's Club told me at my interview normally they wait until senior awards day but they let me know at my interview because I don't have an awards day.
A: Perfect world, what does the future hold?
A: I start an internship in March. You have to do an internship in your last term at a place like the Department of Health, a hospital or hospice.
My long-term goal to be a consultant is going to require more education. I'd like to get into a facility that would help me further my education so I could get my bachelor's degree and eventually be a compliance officer and then a consultant.
I want to be the boss. I'm not going to sit and do codes and billing. I want to be the coders' and billers' boss.
Q: Any last holiday wishes for this story?
A: I want to make sure the Boca Grande Woman's Club knows how much I appreciate their scholarship. I hope I inspire other workers on island that it is never too late to go back to school and better yourself.