HANCEVILLE, Ala. – The largest graduating class for Wallace State Community College’s Occupational Therapy Assistant program participated in a pinning ceremony recognizing their accomplishments. Sixty students walked across the stage to receive their pin.
“Congrats, here we are — we’re done; we’re finished; it’s finally over,” said class president Mary Williamson. “In a matter of just three semesters, lives have been changed.”
Williamson said the field of Occupational Therapy is a misunderstood profession, adding she thought she and many of her classmates didn’t know much about it when they first entered the program.
“The treatment is diverse and individualized, but the goal is still the same,” she said. “It’s to give you independence in your desired occupation.
“Your life is made up of different occupations which we call meaningful, everyday activities,” Williamson added. “We generally don’t think about daily occupations until we have trouble doing them. I would go so far to say that our ability to take care of ourselves, to work and have relationships are taken for granted.”
Williamson went on recount the story of a woman who was crying tears of joy because her son could ride the bus to school with other children, that he could keep up with other children and that her family came around more often.
“I was excited for her, but I didn’t understand the weight of what she was saying or why she was crying about it,” Williamson said.
She learned the woman had autism, with major sensory issues and no social skills.
“All he could do all the time was scream and cry and his own family couldn’t come over to hang out with him. He had to have a separate school bus to get to school and a full-time school aid. She and her husband were completely hopeless and down to their wits’ end until they found a pediatric clinic that offered occupational therapy. That’s when things change, and this is why we’re here. This is why occupational therapy is important.”
One her first clinical patients was a war veteran who had suffered a stroke. “He had fought for years for the independence of his country, but yet due to a recent stroke he had no independence of his own,”’ Williamson said.
“You wouldn’t think that watching a man put a sock on would be anything exciting, or entertaining or anything to shout about. But you should have seen the pride beaming on his face when he finally slipped that sock over his heel for the first time in weeks with a simple tool. This is why we’re here.”
Instructors Rachel Gooch and Kelly Krigbaum congratulated the students on their accomplishments and noted how proud they were of them.
“Exactly 20 years ago I sat where you guys are sitting,” said Krigbaum, who graduated from the Wallace State OTA program in 1999. “I had no job in sight and didn’t know what the future held for me but knew that it would be bright because of this degree. I knew I would never be bored, because the field of occupational therapy never gets boring.
“I want to commend all of you for your commitment on obtaining your dream of pursuing a degree in occupational therapy,” she added. “You have endured many long, stressful days to reach this milestone and I truly hope that it’s a rewarding day for you to celebrate. I’m so proud of your accomplishments and can’t wait to see what your future holds.”
The Wallace State Community College Occupational Therapy Assistant program is a three-semester degree program, with two semesters of pre-requisite courses to complete before applying to the program. Applications are accepted each year from March 1 to June 1 for entry in the fall of year.
Registration is currently underway for the Fall 2019 semester and will continue through Aug. 22. Classes will begin Aug. 19.
Visit www.wallacestate.edu to register of for more information about this and other programs offered at Wallace State, or call 256-352-8000.